South Africa led by 218 runs at Saturday’s lunch break and, having taken four wickets in the morning session, were well placed to press for a victory in Port Elizabeth that would square the three-Test series at 1-1.
But the Proteas lacked the ruthless edge that has kept them at the top of the ICC’s Test rankings since August 2012, as they continued a trend of poor fielding in the series.
Smith was 49 not out, having been dropped on 24, but the dismissal of Mitchell Johnson (27) with the last ball of the session meant he had only two partners left.
Brad Haddin was offered a life on one when Hashim Amla couldn’t hold an incredibly tough chance at gully that dislocated his finger.
Amla’s replacement in the field Robin Peterson then dropped a regulation catch when Smith flicked the ball straight to the dumped spinner at square leg.
Smith and Haddin put on a stand of 40 runs, but couldn’t repeat their habit of rescuing Australia’s first innings throughout the 2013-14 Ashes.
One over after going within inches of being run-out by Dale Steyn, Haddin was out for nine when his middle stump was uprooted by the fiery paceman.
David Warner and Nathan Lyon, both dropped on day two, were also unable to make the most of their let-offs.
Warner, dropped three times en route to a century in the first Test win at Centurion, was on 43 when wicketkeeper AB de Villiers offered him a life on Friday.
The aggressive opener added five runs to his overnight score of 65 before edging Vernon Philander to Graeme Smith at first slip.
Lyon followed the next over when he stepped to the leg-side and tried to get creative to a short ball from Morne Morkel, but instead chopped it straight onto his stumps.
Johnson, who inflicted so much pain in the first Test at Centurion, was hit on the hand and helmet by consecutive nasty Morkel bouncers in the 49th over.
After a quick chat with team physio Alex Kountouris and the delivery of a new helmet, the 32-year-old faced up and pulled Morkel for a single.
But he was out the next over to a straight ball from JP Duminy.
Wayne Parnell, playing his first Test in four years, limped off the field midway through his ninth over and was sent for scans on a suspected groin strain.