Sydney: Australia"s hopes of keeping the series alive and out of form opener Matthew Hayden"s fading career took another hit when South Africa instigated a dramatic top order collapse on the fourth morning of the Boxing Day Test.
Australia is 1-0 down in the series and faces the prospect of their first home series loss since Richie Richardson"s West Indies beat Allan Border"s Australians in 1992/93.
Dale Steyn produced two beautiful spells as he grabbed his ninth wicket and restricted Australia to a lead of 115 at tea. While Ricky Ponting, who was 87, eyed twin centuries in what had become a lone hand, Steyn kept hurting the hosts as they struggled to 7 for 180.
After Australia resumed at 0-4, still 61 runs behind South Africa, Hayden made an encouraging start, playing a nice drive before he popped a simple catch up to short extra cover for 23, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Australia lost three wickets before wiping out the deficit, after Simon Katich was caught behind chasing a wide ball off Dale Steyn.
After a frenetic start to the session, Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke restored some calm and guided Australia to 3-86 at lunch.
This summer Hayden has scored 79 runs at an average of 11.28 in four Tests and has struggled since injuring his Achilles tendon during the Indian Premier League in May.
He indicated before the Boxing Day Test that he was reconsidering his future. NSW youngster Philip Hughes and former Test players Chris Rogers of Victoria and Phil Jaques of NSW are the favourites to assume Hayden"s position should the Queenslander step aside.