England must summon a rearguard performance in keeping with their world number one ranking if they are to avoid losing the first Investec Test after Hashim Amla's Oval masterclass.
Amla, the first South African to make a triple-century, underpinned the tourists' 637 for two declared in a 13-hour marathon 311 not out, which spanned record stands first with his captain Graeme Smith and then Jacques Kallis (182no). There was then a wicket each for South Africa's frontline bowlers as England closed on 102 for four, still 150 runs behind.
It is a perilous position for Andrew Strauss' team, but batting coach Graham Gooch said: "We're not winning the Test match, are we? So it's not going our way. When you've played quite a bit of Test cricket you accept not every game is going to happen for you - and at the moment South Africa are in a dominant position. That's stating the obvious."
He went on: "But the game's not over yet - you have to believe you can still get out of this game with a draw.
"If England achieve that it will be a great performance."
Gooch takes encouragement from England's pedigree as the pre-eminent team in Test cricket and the durability they have shown in the recent past.
They have, for example, twice held on for 'stalemates' against South Africa - in the drawn 2009/10 series - and also rescued famous draws at the start of their last two victorious Ashes campaigns.
"England's performances recently have been excellent, up there with the best in the world," added Gooch. "They wouldn't be ranked where they are without that.
"We're not giving up, that is for sure.
"If we can have a good partnership and take it up to lunch, there's a chance."