Vishwa Fernando and Kasun Rajitha took three wickets apiece as history-chasing Sri Lanka dismissed South Africa for 222 on day one of the second Test at St George's Park.
No Asian nation has won a Test series in South Africa, but Sri Lanka could become the first after a sensational victory at Kingsmead and they made a promising start in Port Elizabeth.
Needing to avoid defeat in order to go down in the record books, Vishwa (3-62) and Rajitha (3-67) excelled on a grassy pitch as the Proteas were bowled out early in the final session.
South Africa slumped to 15-3 before Aiden Markram (60) and Quinton de Kock (86) spared their blushes and Sri Lanka were 60-3 in reply at stumps, Duanne Olivier taking 2-25.
Vishwa offered great support for Kusal Perera in a record match-winning 10th wicket stand in Durban after starring with the ball and the paceman gave Sri Lanka a dream start on Thursday.
The left-armer removed Dean Elgar's off stump and produced a peach of a delivery to clean up Hashim Amla first ball in a magnificent sixth over.
Temba Bavuma only just survived the hat-trick ball and fell without scoring when he was run out by a direct hit from Rajitha at the non-striker's end.
South Africa were in the mire on 15-3 when Faf du Plessis strolled out to the middle not long after winning the toss and the captain was content to hang in there as Vishwa continued to steam in, generating movement and bounce.
Markram was in great touch, playing glorious drives on both sides of the wicket as Du Plessis dug in at the other end, but captain Dimuth Karunaratne yorked his opposite number for 25 in his first over on the stroke of lunch to end a stand of 58.
The stylish Markram had a deserved sixth Test half-century early in the afternoon session and looked untroubled until he was trapped in front by Rajitha, who quickly dismissed debutant Wiaan Mulder in the same fashion.
South Africa were 157-7 when Keshav Maharaj became the excellent Rajitha's third victim, but De Kock played with great fluency in a typically attacking knock.
De Kock brought up his half-century from only 51 balls before Kagiso Rabada (22) was dropped by Dhananjaya de Silva and Lasith Embuldeniya, who was left with blood streaming from his thumb after putting down a simple chance off his own bowling.
Wicketkeeper-batsman De Kock needed treatment on his left leg, but that did not stop him from hooking and driving Vishwa to the boundary before he was bowled by De Silva (2-15).
De Silva and Vishwa mopped up the tail, then Olivier saw the back of Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis after Rabada had Karunaratne caught behind to leave the match well poised.
|Heaton hails ´outstanding´ England rival Pickford|
|Ronaldo doesn´t have to prove anything – Cancelo|
|Bucks hand Lakers fourth consecutive loss|
|Menotti worried about ´very tired´ Messi|
|Gabriel Jesus: Post-World Cup most difficult moment of career|
|Rockets´ James Harden makes NBA history|
|Musso honoured to have Messi back with Argentina|
|Clippers coach Rivers denies report he´s interested in Lakers job|
|Former Packers linebacker Matthews signs with Rams|
|MLB preview: Projecting AL East|
|Raiders sign linebacker Burfict|
|Adrien´s a prisoner at PSG – Rabiot´s mother slams Ligue 1 champs|
|Navas criticises Solari over lack of Madrid chances|
|Vinicius: I chose Madrid project over Barca money|
|Griezmann´s sister denies Barcelona contact|
|Barkley on Beckham trade: I was sad to see him go|
|Fleming steps down as Stars head coach|
|Rain washes out Miami Open as Andreescu prepares for action|
|PSG condemn ex-Manchester United defender Evra´s comments|
|Cowboys sign former Packers wide receiver Cobb|
|Nations League glory would top World Cup run, says Kane|
|Chelsea star Hazard ´not working´ on Real Madrid move|
|Retiring Safarova set for Prague swansong|
|Giggs fires back at Ibrahimovic´s ´Circle of Ferguson´ jibe|
|Sterling ´spot on´ with media criticism, says England team-mate Rose|
|Miller times it right as South Africa take super route to victory|
|Panthers sign DE Bruce Irvin|
|Blues sign Wales wing Adams|
|Man Utd fan McGregor reveals admiration for Ronaldo, Ferguson and Solskjaer|
|PSG confirm knee injuries for Meunier and Alves|
|Wilder v Breazeale booked for Brooklyn in May|
|Sterling in the running for player of the year - Kane|
|Scarlets trio sign new contracts after Grand Slam heroics|
|She makes notes on every match - former coach hails hungry Andreescu|
|Kane confident Hudson-Odoi will shine for England|
|LeBron, Antetokounmpo to sit out Lakers-Bucks|
|Warrington wants unification fights - but first faces Galahad in June|
|Roglic snatches Tirreno-Adriatico victory by one second from Yates|
|Silva fined by FA for post-Newcastle ref rant|
|New date for Manchester City v Cardiff game|
|Trout reportedly set to sign record-breaking deal with Angels|
|PSG appeal against reopened FFP case upheld by CAS|
|Team Sky to become Team INEOS as new deal confirmed|
|Canales had given up on Spain dream|
|Low undecided on whether Neuer or Ter Stegen will face Serbia|
|Sane hails Guardiola influence on development|
|Japanese Olympic Committee president to stand down amid corruption investigation|
|Pivac ´disappointed´ with Edwards´ comments|
|Schreuder to succeed Nagelsmann as Hoffenheim coach|
|Long leaves Republic of Ireland squad with groin injury|
|Campagnaro to make Quins switch|
|It´s party time - Malone revels in Nuggets playoff qualification|
|Crusaders duo say grieving is more important than name change|
|Abraham wants chance to impress at Chelsea|
|Special Wales can mount World Cup challenge - Gatland|
|Sanchez desperate to ´bring joy´ to Manchester United fans|
|Nowitzki relieved to surpass ´freak of nature´ Chamberlain|
|It´s hard to improve Real Madrid - Arbeloa sees little reason for ´Galactico´ signings|
|Muto frustrated with lack of chances at Newcastle|
|Xavi insists a 48-team World Cup in Qatar ´will not be good´|
|Bayern Munich´s Hudson-Odoi interest a boost for England - Ashworth|
|Premier League is overrated, claims Ibrahimovic|
|Everything was Ferguson! Ibrahimovic claims Manchester United must find their own identity|
|Nuggets clinch playoff spot with win over Celtics|
|PFA hit out at FIFA, FFA for backing Sheikh Salman in AFC re-elections after Hakeem al-Araibi ordeal|
|Liverpool´s week of defiance could prove crucial – Alexander-Arnold|
|Casillas convinced Porto team-mate Militao will succeed at Real Madrid|
|Manziel in contention for AAF debut on Sunday|
|Inter general manager Marotta hopeful on Icardi´s stand-off|
|Casillas thrilled by Zidane´s Real Madrid return|