Dimuth Karunaratne ploughed a lone furrow for Sri Lanka as South Africa took charge on the opening day of the first Test in Galle.
The opener carried his bat on Thursday as the hosts struggled to find any rhythm after opting to make their opponents bowl, Karunaratne finishing 158 not out as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 287.
Plenty of his partners made starts but could not push on, and Sri Lanka's total would have been even less competitive had last man Lakshan Sandakan not added a timely 25.
Kagiso Rabada proved South Africa's main threat with 4-50, while there was also a wicket for the returning Dale Steyn.
Left-arm chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi contributed 3-91 in his second outing as Sri Lanka toiled, only the impressive Karunaratne scoring big on a pitch that is expected to turn more and more as the game goes on.
Sri Lanka finished the day on a high, though, as Rangana Herath took advantage of the early spin to remove Aiden Markram before the close, South Africa finishing 4-1 at the beginning of their reply.
Stumps, Day 1: SA 4/1 after 4 overs. Elgar 4*, Maharaj 0*, trail by 283. Last wicket: Markram 0.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) July 12, 2018
SL 287. Rabada 4/50, Shamsi 3/91, Philander 1/28, Steyn 1/54. #SLvSA #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/r6uPlFI142
The initial signs looked positive for Sri Lanka as Karunaratne and Danushka Gunathilaka made a steady start, only for Rabada to find a beautiful line outside off stump to have the latter caught behind.
Dhananjaya de Silva helped push the score on to 70-1 but four quick wickets saw the hosts slump to 119-5 – Rabada and Steyn doing the damage as the Proteas' seamers found a good length.
Karunaratne kept his patient, watchful innings ticking over while panic ensued around him, bringing up his half century off 82 balls with a quick single.
He survived a scare soon after as Markram dropped him at short leg, and slowly pushed towards an eighth Test century.
A straight drive to the boundary off Shamsi took Karunaratne to three figures but by then Sri Lanka were eight wickets down and facing an uphill struggle to post a credible total.
The Karunaratne show! @IamDimuth carries his bat with 158*, the fourth Sri Lankan to do so in Test cricket, as the hosts are dismissed for 287 on day one in Galle.#SLvSA scorecard https://t.co/iKZgIHlw9a pic.twitter.com/XdTawzE1Hg— ICC (@ICC) July 12, 2018
Stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal and Sandakan gave him much-needed support for the final two wickets, Sri Lanka adding 63 as Karunaratne reached 150 for the fourth time in his career.
Eventually Sri Lanka's resistance came to an end as Shamsi had Sandakan stumped, but it left South Africa with a tricky four-over spell to navigate.
Markram was unable to do so as Herath drew him forward and found an edge that Angelo Matthews gobbled up at slip, but it was a rare disappointment on a productive day for the tourists.
|Mahomes stars again as Chiefs crush Bengals|
|Bolt must accept ´much less´ to join Mariners, says A-League chief|
|Klopp compares Liverpool to dog without favourite toy|
|Young leads Hawks to first win, Thunder fall in Westbrook´s return|
|Spalletti hits out at physical Milan – I had three players asking to be replaced|
|Cowboys, Ravens lose after missed kicks in final seconds|
|Hernangomez secures Nuggets´ win over Warriors with last-second block|
|Hasler returns to Manly on three-year deal|
|Sarri: Chelsea fans must respect Mourinho|
|Ronaldo learnt from Scholes – Pjanic praises Juventus star|
|CA dismisses spot-fixing claims|
|WATCH: Will Ferrell leads chants with LAFC fans|
|MLS Review: Galaxy on track for play-offs as Timbers, DC clinch spots|
|Elliott secures win at Hollywood Casino 400|
|Thunder´s Westbrook makes season debut against Kings|
|Saints beat Ravens after Tucker misses extra point|
|Rondo, Paul and Ingram banned after Lakers-Rockets fight|
|Saints QB Brees reaches another historic milestone|
|Biglia: VAR should have checked Nainggolan tackle|
|Gattuso not blaming Donnarumma for derby defeat|
|Seventh in Mexico will secure Hamilton´s fifth world title|
|Rooney fires DC United into MLS play-offs|
|Alonso slams ´amateur´ F1 rivals after latest crash|
|Spalletti fears lengthy Nainggolan absence|
|To the Max! Verstappen destroyed shoe fending off Hamilton|
|Icardi delight after Donnarumma error gives him another derby winner for Inter|
|Guardiola: Versatility the key for Stones|
|Vettel frustrated as mistakes continue to hamper title challenge|
|ECB refutes spot-fixing claims against England players|
|I thought we would do better - Hamilton queries Mercedes strategy|
|Inter 1 AC Milan 0: Icardi settles derby with dramatic late winner|
|Hamilton denied title party as Raikkonen wins in Austin|
|Patriots RB Michel out against Bears with gruesome knee injury|
|Kohli hails Rohit partnership after comprehensive India victory|
|Silva downplays his role after Everton super subs seal victory|
|Injured Bairstow out of final white-ball matches in Sri Lanka|
|Pliskova feeling confident after impressive start in Singapore|
|Big-hitting Imrul rescues Bangladesh in opening ODI|
|Leinster suffer late defeat at Toulouse, Newcastle snatch dramatic victory|
|Chargers pip Titans to dramatic London win|
|Everton 2 Crystal Palace 0: Substitutes Calvert-Lewin and Tosun clip Eagles´ wings|
|Thunderstorms push Andalucia Valderrama Masters into reserve day|
|Edmund masters Monfils to claim maiden singles title|
|Kohli and Rohit fire India to comprehensive ODI win|
|Manchester United didn´t play - David Luiz blasts Mourinho tactics|
|Svitolina out to silence ´haters´ in Singapore|
|Emre Can facing surgery on thyroid problem|
|Tsitsipas claims maiden ATP crown in Stockholm|
|Mariners boss Mulvey knows nothing of Bolt contract offer|
|WATCH: Vinicius Junior scores free-kick - then sees red!|
|Gronkowski ruled out of Bears clash|
|Khachanov enjoys home comforts with comprehensive Kremlin Cup win|
|Isner wants Wimbledon tie-break rule named after him|
|Hummels lauds ´outstanding´ Lewandowski|
|Liverpool´s defensive improvement no accident – Gomez|
|Pliskova overpowers defending champion Wozniacki in Singapore|
|Marquez dislocates shoulder celebrating MotoGP title|
|Henry taking positives from opening Monaco defeat|
|A-League Review: Mariners held as Bolt considers move|
|Dominant Svitolina ends Kvitova hoodoo in Singapore|
|Pereira warns Juventus to expect ´pumped up´ Manchester United|
|D´Antoni backs NBA to ´sort out´ Lakers-Rockets brawl|
|Mixed feelings for champion Marquez after Dovizioso crash|
|Bolt offered contract by Central Coast Mariners|
|Anthony accuses Rondo of spitting after Lakers-Rockets brawl|
|Martial insists he has good relationship with Mourinho|
|Bautista to replace Lorenzo at Phillip Island|
|Emery wanted Lacazette at Paris Saint-Germain|
|Wallabies centre Hodge suffers fractured ankle|
|Koepka claims top ranking with CJ Cup win|