Melbourne: Ricky Ponting fell agonisingly short of writing himself into the game's record books, caught out on 99 as he attempted to become the first batsman to score centuries in both innings of a Test on four separate occasions.
In a compelling distraction from what has been another dreadful day for Australia, Ponting drove straight to counterpart Graeme Smith at short extra cover off the bowling of Morne Morkel to miss out on a memorable milestone.
As the Australian skipper trudged off the MCG he left his side at 8 for 212, a 147-run second innings lead over the Proteas.
It would have also been the third time Ponting has achieved the rare feat against South Africa after similar efforts in Sydney and Durban in 2006. The other occasion was a Test match against the West Indies at the Gabba in 2005.
All three came whilst Ponting was captain.
Nevertheless, it was a typically inspirational knock by the skipper with his middle order crumbling around him.
A commanding Ponting found the boundary seven times, showing off his full repertoire of sublime shots mixed with only rare occasions of streakiness early on.