Steven Finn struck three times in seven balls as he and James Anderson gave England a flying start to the must-win Lord's Test.
Anderson administered the first blow, with the wicket of South Africa captain Graeme Smith this morning, before the tourists reached a tea-time score of 151 for five.
Finn justified his inclusion, ahead of Tim Bresnan, with two wickets in his fifth over and a third in his next - and thanks to Anderson's sole success of the afternoon, England still held an early advantage. They need victory to share the spoils in this Investec series and stop their opponents knocking them off the top of the world rankings.
Smith, setting a new world record here as he captains his country for the 94th time in a Test match, chose to bat first under cloud cover. But he soon knew he and his opening partner Alviro Petersen would be in for an examination of technique and judgement as England's pace bowlers found movement in the air, and a little off the seam.
It was not until Anderson opted for a new line of attack against Smith that England got their breakthrough. Anderson went round the wicket, and pushed one further up and wide. Smith followed it down the hill - and although his bat hit the floor as well as the ball, Kumar Dharmasena's initial not-out verdict for caught-behind had to be overturned.
Then Finn, with three for 48, did not disappoint on his home ground. First a little extra bounce undid Petersen, who gloved a catch behind down the leg side. He took his bottom hand off the handle almost at the moment of impact, but not obviously enough for there to be serious doubt about the validity of the decision.
Jacques Kallis was off the mark with a leg-side single from his first ball - putting number three Hashim Amla back on strike, where he was to depart to a very good delivery, bowled between bat and pad by Finn. England's 6ft 8in seamer was not finished, either. He took his third wicket for just three runs when lynchpin Kallis was caught-behind.
This time it seemed, after England again reviewed the initial not-out verdict, that - in a near action-reply of Petersen's dismissal - the bottom glove might well have been off the handle when it was hit. But after much deliberation, and to the obvious dismay of Smith and others on the South African balcony, third umpire Rod Tucker ruled otherwise.
After a delayed start to the afternoon session, because of a lunchtime shower, England were on the other end of the next DRS ruling when Hawkeye could not overturn an lbw reprieve for AB de Villiers off Anderson. That decision was reached on the grounds that impact with pad was too close to being outside off stump.
It cost England their remaining review, but no runs - Anderson concluding a sequence of 13 dot balls to De Villiers with his wicket, well caught by Alastair Cook away to his left at third slip, to end a stand of 51 with Jacques Rudolph.