India grasped the initiative with four wickets in the final session after half-centuries from Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla put South Africa in a promising position on day one of the second Test.
Markram continued his impressive start to his Proteas career, striking 15 boundaries in a well-crafted 94 and Amla made 82, having been dropped by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel on 30, but India hit back after tea at Centurion.
Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-90 and Hardik Pandya produced a moment of brilliance to run out Amla as South Africa, handing a debut to paceman Lungi Ngidi, slipped from 246-3 to 269-6 at stumps.
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Ishant Sharma, recalled along with Parthiv and KL Rahul in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha and Shikhar Dhawan respectively, removed AB de Villiers in a final session which ended with India in the ascendancy after toiling for much of a hot Saturday.
Markram and Dean Elgar saw off the new ball on a flat pitch after Faf du Plessis won the toss, the former playing a couple of exquisite off drives when the expensive Mohammed Shami over-pitched after runs had been hard to come by.
The India quicks, Shami aside, had been well disciplined, but Jasprit Bumrah was taken for 13 in an over before Virat Kohli wasted a review for caught behind when he thought Elgar had edged Ashwin through to Parthiv.
A confident Markram reached his fifty off 81 balls and South Africa moved to 78 without loss at lunch, but Murali Vijay ended an opening stand of 85, juggling to take a catch at silly point as Ashwin tempted Elgar into a loose drive.
Markram continued to punish stray deliveries that came along and looked set for a third Test hundred in just seven visits to the crease, but fell six runs short when he feathered Ashwin through to Parthiv and failed to get the decision overturned.
A diving Parthiv was unable to hold on down the leg side after Amla edged a delivery from Ishant, who was rewarded for his endeavour by removing De Villiers, the former skipper chopping on for 20 after tea.
Amla brought up his half-century by punching Ashwin to the cover boundary and appeared destined for a 29th Test hundred, only for Pandya to swoop and unleash a bullet of a throw to run him out with a direct hit.
The Proteas lost three wickets in just 14 balls to give India the upper hand, Quinton de Kock edging the impressive Ashwin to Kohli at first slip from his first delivery before Vernon Philander was run out for a duck.
Du Plessis and Keshav Maharaj prevented further damage from being done, but they will return to the crease on Sunday morning with work to do.