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.
|Man behind Naomi Osaka´s rise wins WTA Coach of the Year|
|England name unchanged Test squad as Willey returns for West Indies ODIs|
|Spalletti: No issue with Icardi watching Superclasico in Madrid|
|Klopp confirms 2013 talks with ´chatty´ Napoli president De Laurentiis|
|Sri Lanka spinner Dananjaya suspended due to illegal action|
|His reaction was just brilliant – Klopp praises Sterling for response to abuse|
|Gomez renewal a ´smart decision´ for both parties – Klopp|
|Magnificent Molinari named European Golfer of the Year|
|Barcelona best option for Frenkie de Jong, insists midfielder´s father|
|Gronkowski on Miami Miracle: ´Got to make that tackle´|
|Tottenham youngster Walker-Peters signs on until 2023|
|Juventus ´more of a family´ than Real Madrid - Ronaldo|
|Kingsley Coman contemplates retirement if injury nightmare continues|
|McVay ´sick´ over offensive failings as Rams coach takes blame for loss|
|Calleja axed as Villarreal coach|
|Kenyan Drake on Miami Miracle: I couldn´t let Gronk tackle me!|
|Ronaldo: I deserved Ballon d´Or, the numbers don´t lie|
|Rugby Australia to make Cheika decision this month|
|England defender Gomez signs new Liverpool deal|
|Ronaldo wants to see Messi follow him to Italy|
|Neymar happy to play in any position for PSG - Draxler|
|Paine insists he is ´fine´ after taking blow to finger|
|Ponzio: River players will be ´idolised´ for Libertadores success|
|Champions League permutations: How Inter, PSG and Liverpool can progress|
|Kohli: India were better and deserved to win|
|Bears shut down Goff, Rams|
|India survive dramatic finish against Australia|
|Klopp calls for electric Anfield atmosphere against Napoli|
|Saints clinch back-to-back NFC South titles, Bears trump Rams|
|Bucks improve to 2-0 against Raptors with win in Toronto|
|Black Caps include Patel for Sri Lanka Tests|
|Maidana: River want Real Madrid clash|
|Cowboys top Eagles in OT behind stellar Cooper display|
|AC Milan evaluating Fabregas signing – Leonardo|
|WATCH: Steelers´ chance at game-tying field goal slips away|
|Hayne will plead not guilty to charges, says lawyer|
|Boca boss Schelotto: The only thing I feel is sadness|
|Cardinals´ Fitzgerald makes NFL history with most receptions for one team|
|River Plate´s Copa Libertadores star Gonzalo Martinez confirms January departure|
|Klopp: I was never worried about Salah´s form|
|Packers QB Rodgers sets NFL record for most passes without an interception|
|World Cup bulking hampered Man United form – Lukaku|
|Leonardo rules out Ibrahimovic Milan return|
|Warriors´ Green to return against Timberwolves|
|I feel for him… we´ll make it work – Butler responds to Embiid´s frustration|
|Torino draw no missed opportunity for misfiring AC Milan, claims Gattuso|
|We´ll always be linked together forever - Wade reflects on playing with James before final match-up|
|O´Sullivan wins record seventh UK title|
|Chiefs secure playoff berth, Saints win NFC South|
|River Plate 3 Boca Juniors 1 (aet, 5-3 agg): Quintero and Martinez clinch Libertadores title in extr|
|WATCH: Chiefs QB Mahomes throws no-look pass|
|Dolphins defeat Patriots on miraculous final play|
|Kizzire eagle snatches QBE Shootout victory|
|AC Milan 0 Torino 0: Donnarumma shines, Cutrone misses late chance|
|Back to the drawing board for West Indies - Chase|
|Copa Libertadores: Messi and Griezmann among stars in Madrid for River-Boca Superclasico|
|Brady sets NFL record for most career TD passes|
|Copa Libertadores: Tevez named on Boca bench for Superclasico final|
|Premier League needs VAR, right now! - Benitez fumes over Dean´s decisions|
|McCall expects Itoje to fit for the Six Nations|
|Solari salutes Real Madrid character after ´ugly´ Huesca win|
|Berbatov defends under-fire Lukaku|
|Sarries crush Blues to maintain unbeaten start|
|Newcastle United 1 Wolves 2: Doherty punishes Yedlin red with late winner|
|Deeney jokes he´ll ´smash´ former Watford star Richarlison|
|Huesca 0 Real Madrid 1: Bale ends drought as Solari´s men edge to victory|
|Ponting: Umpires not looking at no-balls|
|Bale ends longest LaLiga goal drought|
|Porter backs Brees for MVP, Saints for Super Bowl|
|Verstappen eyeing 2019 title fight|