Sydney: South Africa's pursuit for an 'Australia whitewash' started on a bright note after their bowlers left Australia at 267-6 at stumps on day one of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Michael Clarke waged a lone battle with a battling 73 not out with Mitchell Johnson keeping him company on 17 after captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat.
Only Clarke, who made his first Test half-century at the Sydney venue, offered any real resistance as four batsmen perished after reaching 30 on a pitch containing no obvious venom.
The Australia vice-captain, who was dropped on 12 and 69, has been at the crease for 235 minutes, stroking nine fours in a patient knock.
Clarke and Brad Haddin (38) put on 75 for the sixth wicket and looked to have done enough to ensure Australia would end the opening day in reasonable shape.
But the introduction of the second new ball brought about the downfall of Haddin, who played around a Dale Steyn delivery to be bowled minutes before stumps.
Steyn was the pick of the Proteas' bowlers, finishing with two for 71 from 21 overs.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first under overcast skies before a healthy crowd of 37,901, but the home side lost Simon Katich (47) and Ricky Ponting (zero) during a tense first session.
Katich looked in good touch in racing to 47 from 52 balls before pushing forward at a Jacques Kallis delivery and edging a catch to AB de Villiers at second slip.
One run later Ponting was on his way for a first-ball duck. Morne Morkel got a ball to seam back, catching the inside edge of the Australia skipper's bat and presenting wicketkeeper Mark Boucher with the catch.
Matthew Hayden, fighting to save his Test career, made his way cautiously to 31 before chasing a wide delivery from Steyn and dragging the ball onto his stumps.
The Queenslander cut a dejected figure as his made his way off the ground, the big first-day crowd giving him a rousing send-off in the knowledge he may have batted at international level for the last time.
Hayden's dismissal left Australia shaky at 109 for three. With the score on 130, Michael Hussey - who had fought hard to get to 30 - edged Paul Harris
to Kallis at slip and was on his way back to the pavilion.
Harris celebrated the wicket wildly but appeared to twist a knee after leaping through the air in delight.
While he was off the field receiving attention, Andrew McDonald arrived at the crease for his debut innings and was immediately struck on the body by a 142km/h thunderbolt from Morkel.
He was lucky to survive beyond five after his helmet was dislodged and almost crashed back on his stumps while attempting to dodge a Morkel bouncer.
McDonald moved to 15 before he was caught behind off Makhaya Ntini with Haddin the last man out for the day.
Australia, who are 2-0 down in the three-Test series after defeats in Perth and Melbourne, are looking to avoid their first home series whitewash loss in 122 years.