Recalled fast bowler Steve Harmison took two wickets in successive balls to spark a South African collapse on the first day of the fourth and final Test against England at the Oval Thursday.
South Africa were 158 for seven at tea. The tourists, already holding a winning 2-0 lead in the series, appeared to be heading towards a strong position after winning the toss when they reached 103 for the loss of one wicket.
But Harmison then had South African captain Graeme Smith caught at deep backward square leg for 46 and fired in a 93mph (149kmh) yorker to bowl Hashim Amla for 36 with his next delivery.
James Anderson followed up by taking three wickets as South Africa slumped to 132 for six. AB de Villiers batted attractively for 39 before new captain Kevin Pietersen brought on left-arm spinner Monty Panesar in the over before tea.
He was rewarded when De Villiers went back on his stumps and was leg before wicket to Panesar's third ball.
It was a remarkable turnaround for England and Pietersen, who had endured a frustrating first two hours of play during which three catches were spilled and the luck seemed to be going with the batsmen as they played and missed or edged the ball dangerously close to fielders or the stumps.
Smith won the toss and batted on a pitch with pace and bounce. There was possibly more help for the bowlers than he anticipated, however, as Anderson in particular was able to get considerable swing.
Anderson trapped Jacques Kallis leg before with a full in-swinger, had Ashwell Prince caught at cover and Mark Boucher caught behind with a full away-swinger.
Anderson had figures of three for 36 at tea. The match got off to a dramatic start when Smith cut the first ball from Harmison straight to Alastair Cook at gully but the fielder could not hold a sharp head-high catch.
Smith survived a second, much more difficult chance when a diving Cook at third slip got his fingertips to a ball edged by Smith on 24 from Flintoff.
Cook held a catch at third slip to dismiss opener Neil McKenzie for 17 after an opening stand of 56 with Smith but put down a third chance when Amla slashed Flintoff to third slip when he had five.
South Africa, first innings
|G Smith||c Anderson||b Harmison||46|
|N McKenzie||c Cook||b Flintoff||17|
|H Amla||b Harmison||36|
|J Kallis||lbw||b Anderson||2|
|A Prince||c Bell||b Anderson||4|
|A de Villiers||lbw||b Panesar||39|
|M Boucher||c Ambrose||b Anderson||3|
|M Morkel||not out||7|
|Extras||(b1, lb1, nb2)||4|
|Total||(7 wkts, 49.3 overs)||158|
|Falls:||1-56, 2-103, 3-103, 4-105, 5-118, 6-132, 7-158|
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), S Davis (AUS). Match referee: R Madugalle (SRI).