Hashim AMLA’s double century, a feelgood maiden hundred from Temba Bavuma and more dropped catches effectively ended England’s hopes of winning the second Test against South Africa.
Amla did the bulk of the heavy lifting in Cape Town, batting for 11 hours and 47 minutes on his way to a stoic 201, but South Africa’s position of safety owed plenty to five missed chances on day four.
Bavuma, the first black African batsman to represent the country, also earned his place in the spotlight, with an innings imbued with wider significance.
Having declared two runs in arrears on 627-7, the Proteas had six overs at the tourists, who finished 16 without loss.
Over the course of the day England shelled four catches, with Joe Root failing to pick up another manageable chance, and will be left to wonder what might have been had some, or all, stuck.
Amla’s innings was the clear centre-piece, with the captain chewing up 477 deliveries and grinding down the England attack over three separate days, but he is scholarly enough to appreciate the importance of Bavuma’s efforts.
Raised in Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township, he came into the match facing suggestions his selection owed as much to his ethnicity as his talent.
But he fashioned an eloquent response at Newlands.
Of the five black Africans to have represented the country before Bavuma, four have been bowlers and one a wicketkeeper. None have reached three figures.
Ben Stokes was caught on camera offering a coarse assessment of the 25-year-old’s talents when he inside edged past his stumps on eight, but must surely have been forced to revise his opinion.
In the context of the match his 167-run partnership with Chris Morris (69) finished the job Amla had started.
Having taken just one wicket on a wearisome third day England drew a blank in the first session as Amla and Faf Du Plessis continued to exert caution on a biddable pitch.
They added 75 to the total before lunch, with Amla suffering a rare rush of blood on 197, attempting to reach his landmark with a flourish.
He went to launch Moeen Ali down the ground but his poor connection should have been held by Root, who failed to read the flight of the ball and never came close.
Thirty seconds later, Amla was celebrating his fourth double hundred.
England unwrapped the third new ball of the innings immediately after lunch knowing it represented their last throw of the dice.
It looked as though another hard luck story would unfold when Amla turned Broad to James Taylor at short leg and a tricky low chance went in and out of the hands. It was a third drop of his long stay after earlier errors on 76 and 120.
But five balls later England finally had their man.
Stuart Broad angled one in and jagged it back in off the pitch, taking Amla’s inside edge and dislodging the bails.
When he first took guard on Sunday afternoon the score was seven for one and during his stay 432 runs were scored, 171 on those in tandem with Faf du Plessis.
England were visibly buoyed by the development and, after waiting more than 70 overs for a wicket, grabbed two more in the next 20 balls.
Anderson, after 29 joyless overs, had Du Plessis caught at third slip and Quinton de Kock drilled Broad to square-leg.
Had Bavuma’s exchange with Stokes ended in a wicket rather than an expletive, England may yet have pushed on.
But he grew into the role after that moment.
He pulled merrily and cut soundly when Stokes and Steven Finn dropped short, and stroked Moeen through the covers to reach a brisk fifty before tea.
Jonny Bairstow gave him a life on 77, falling low to his left but failing to cling on, but a fine hundred was calling.
It came with an edged four off Finn but his joyous reaction required no mitigation.
By then Morris had finally departed in his debut innings, having benefited from further drops by Root and Finn.
Amla called his men in shortly after Bavuma’s special moment was cheered from the stands by father Buyo, and despite a tricky six-over spell Alastair Cook and Alex Hales remained in place by stumps.