Sachin Tendulkar was just six runs away from his 51st Test century as India reached 237 for four at lunch on the third day of the series-deciding third cricket Test against South Africa in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Replying to South Africa's first innings total of 362, the Indians lost opener Gautam Gambhir (93) and the dependable VVS Laxman (15) during the session which saw the visitors consolidate their position in the match.
Tendulkar (94) and the Cheteswar Pujara (2) were at the crease at the lunch break with the Indians still 125 runs behind South Africa's total on a Newlands track which appears to have eased out.
The Indians added 95 runs in 32 overs in an engrossing two and half hour pre-lunch session.
The third wicket pair of Gambhir and Tendulkar put on 176 runs before spinner Paul Harris provided the breakthrough much to the relief of the South Africans.
Gambhir fell to a ball that jumped after pitching on the rough and the left hander got a thin edge. Mark Boucher took a smart catch behind the stumps.
Laxman, who joined the action after Gambhir's departure, struck three delectable boundaries, before returning to the pavillion in a tragic manner.
Ironically, a dropped chance of Tendulkar by Harris led to Laxman's run out.
Tendulkar went down the track and smashed the ball straight to Harris who just about managed to get some hand on it. Laxman was outside his crease and the ball fell on the stumps at his end.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 142 for two, the two overnight batsmen - Gambhir and Tendulkar - faced a few anxious moments early in the pre-lunch session as they played and missed a number of times.
Dale Steyn produced a brilliant first over to Tendulkar who was repeatedly beaten as the balls kept swinging away. Tendulkar was a little uncomfortable with the late movement Steyn got in his first over.
Tendulkar completed his half century with an edge through gully off Steyn, his 50 coming off 109 balls and containing five boundaries.
But the champion batsman gradually settled down to unleash some delightful strokes on both sides of the wicket, a majestic drive through covers off Steyn standing out.
Gambhir also grew in confidence as he pulled Morne Morkel for a boundary, though some of his strokes were a little streaky.