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.
|Dilly dilly to all the Cleveland fans! Mayfield promises further Browns success|
|Manchester United ´hell´ left Zaha depressed|
|Jackson hesitates in naming Mayfield as Browns´ starting QB|
|LeBron congratulates Browns for ending 635-day winless streak|
|Aguero Extension: 10 of the best goals from the Manchester City star|
|Aguero signs City contract extension until 2021|
|Stress from drink-driving charge may have contributed to Lloris injury – Pochettino|
|CBF backs Cruzeiro´s Dede appeal and suggests VAR investigation|
|The big Friday Premier League quiz|
|Red Sox clinch AL East with win over Yankees|
|Brighton star Knockaert reveals battle with depression|
|Bud Light beer fridges open after Browns snap 19-game winless streak|
|Browns end 635-day drought with first win since 2016 after downing Jets|
|Blue Jays overturn 8-2 deficit in improbable ninth-inning comeback|
|Colo Colo 0 Palmeiras 2: Scolari´s men poised for Libertadores SFs|
|Tour Championship would enhance successful year, says Tiger|
|Pogba: Man United getting better after winning run|
|What bothers me is that he has time to even do that – LeBron responds to Trump tweet|
|Cowboys most valuable NFL team for 12th successive year|
|Mkhitaryan aiming for glory with Europa specialist Emery|
|Sarri: Pedro´s injury is not too serious|
|This Week in U.S. Sports: Drama in Minnesota, a Judge returns and tragedy in Iowa|
|Tottenham will overcome rough patch – Lamela|
|Torreira impresses for Arsenal but leaves with knock|
|Gattuso urges Higuain to be less predictable with his movement|
|Steelers´ Brown: ´Obviously I don´t want to be traded´|
|Woods, Fowler share Tour Championship lead|
|LeBron James backs Serena Williams after US Open controversy|
|Thiem into St Petersburg quarters, but retiring Youzhny bows out|
|Wigan clinch home semi-final with win over Huddersfield|
|Can apologises following sexism accusations|
|De Bruyne expects to be back for Manchester derby|
|Celtic 1 Rosenborg 0: Griffiths late show lifts Hoops|
|Woods eagles 18 to make 65 at Tour Championship|
|Arsenal 4 Vorskla 2: Aubameyang at the double in entertaining triumph|
|Dudelange 0 AC Milan 1: Deflected Higuain goal spares Gattuso´s blushes|
|Birthday boy Rashid inspires Afghanistan to Asia Cup win|
|Sarri feeling sorry for ´unlucky´ Morata|
|Ryder Cup pick Garcia shoots 66 at Portugal Masters|
|Ronaldo, Zidane, Cantona and the most infamous red cards|
|Villarreal 2 Rangers 2: Arfield and Lafferty steal point for Gerrard´s men|
|PAOK 0 Chelsea 1: Willian strikes as Morata misfires|
|Rain delays Ostapenko in Seoul, Wang books Guangzhou semi|
|Pochettino backs Kane to end goal drought|
|We figured it out - 76ers´ Markelle Fultz rebuilds jump shot|
|Joshua: Povetkin my second-toughest fight|
|Relaxed Pochettino not pushing panic button|
|Why Manchester City fans must fix their relationship with the Champions League|
|Majestic Giorgi ends Wozniacki´s reign in Tokyo|
|Pochettino unwilling to risk Alli fitness|
|Bigger Champions League tests to come, warns Pogba|
|Eight for 10! - Nadeem spins his way to world-record figures|
|A 4-1 lead cut to 3-2 by VAR, but Quakes have no complaints after Atlanta defeat|
|UEFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Ronaldo|
|Joshua v Povetkin: Recapping AJ´s previous world title defences|
|Players told to ink twice over showing tattoos at Rugby World Cup in Japan|
|Mariano targeting Spain call-up after goalscoring Madrid return|
|Pandya, Axar and Thakur out of Asia Cup|
|England omit Cipriani, Tuilagi and Ashton called up|
|Can reacts to Ronaldo´s red card: We are not women|
|One Year to Go: Five Rugby World Cup debutants set to shine|
|Shy Osaka not comfortable with new-found fame|
|Belgium and World Cup winners France make FIFA rankings history|
|Ronaldo wanted to impress - Bernardeschi sympathises after Juve superstar´s red|
|Van Dijk warns Liverpool: Believe we can win trophies or stay home|
|Menezes complains of anti-Brazilian conspiracy after Dede´s VAR red|
|Diamondbacks rout Cubs to remain in postseason picture|
|Modric embraces Ballon d´Or chants as Di Francesco backs Madrid star for award|
|MLS Review: Martinez helps Atlanta stage comeback amid VAR controversy|
|Kerevi recommits to Wallabies, Reds|