England lost captain Andrew Strauss to the final ball before lunch, in reply to South Africa's 309 all out on the second morning of the third Investec Test.
Strauss, in his landmark 100th Test and 50th as captain on his home ground, had appeared the more assured of England's openers, only to be bowled through the gate by Morne Morkel just when it seemed he and Alastair Cook had given their team a sound start.
The hosts therefore reached 29 for one in 10.4 overs.
Cook was beaten several times by South Africa's new-ball pair of Morkel and Vernon Philander, but did not get the edge. Instead, it was to be Strauss who was dismissed by the bowler who has proved his downfall eight times in 11 Tests. England's bowlers had encountered resistance in the first hour at Lord's, as Philander, who made 61, made them work hard again.
But Strauss' team have nonetheless given themselves a chance to push for the victory they need here to share the series, and therefore keep their hands on - and South Africa's off - the world number one Test status they have held for the past year.
To do so, their first task is to bat long and earn a first-innings lead after bowling the tourists out for what appears an under-par total on a good pitch.
Philander completed his maiden Test half-century before he ran out of partners on an initially cloudy morning, having begun with 46 to his name already, and Dale Steyn and Morkel helped him take South Africa past 300.
By the time Philander himself was stumped off Graeme Swann to close the innings, as he tried to bag more bonus runs alongside number 11 Imran Tahir, the tourists' last six wickets had realised 255 runs.
Stuart Broad put himself in the final column for the first time, when his use of full-length swing did the trick against Steyn. Steyn had been hit on the hand by James Anderson, who made him hop around several times with some aggressive short bowling, but Broad tested the tailender on the front foot and found the edge to second slip as he shaped to drive.
Philander, back at the ground where he spent some time as a Middlesex overseas player last summer, did not panic and got his just reward with a 75-ball 50 - and Morkel then provided another handy contribution before he chased a wide ball from Steven Finn, who took four for 75, and fell to a memorable diving catch by Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper's fifth of the innings.