England lost only the wicket of Ravi Bopara in the morning session as they battled to save the first Investec Test against South Africa.
World number ones England found themselves a vulnerable 102 for four, still 150 behind, at the start of the final day at the Kia Oval - but dug in on a glorious morning to reach 177 for five at lunch.
England were pinning initial hopes on remaining frontline batsmen Ian Bell and Bopara. But the fifth-wicket pair, who first joined forces on Sunday night, had just completed a 50 stand when Bopara got out in frustrating circumstances for the second time in the match to Dale Steyn.
The number six had contrived to edge a looping bouncer behind as he failed to bail out of a pull shot in the first innings. On Monday, he went after another short ball but edged down on to his stumps as he aimed past point.
Bell would have gone on 20, had AB de Villiers held a thin edge behind off a leg-break in Imran Tahir's first over.
Bell appeared to be in for the long haul, though, dealing stoically with South Africa's powerful and multi-dimensional attack on a surface showing fifth-day wear and tear but by no means unplayable.
Bell shared an unbroken stand of 60 with Matt Prior, and by lunch his unbeaten 36 from 166 balls was reviving memories of his near five hours of resistance in Cape Town when England last defied South Africa two-and-a-half years ago.