It took until the last half-hour of the last session, but Australia has finally banished the demons of Adelaide with a stunning 245-run victory in Cape Town that has condemned South Africa to its first series loss in five years.
Late-bloomer Ryan Harris entrenched his reputation as one of the finest bowlers seen in Australia since at least the turn of the century by delivering the two wickets Australia needed to win the deciding Test at Newlands and claim the series 2:1. South Africa was bowled out for 265, with Vernon Philander unbeaten on 51. Had it survived another 27 deliveries it would have sealed a stirring draw.
It is the first time South Africa, the world's top-ranked team, has lost a series anywhere since it was defeated by Australia five years ago. It also extended its record of having never beaten Australia in a home series since its readmission to world cricket in 1992.
Skipper Michael Clarke said: "I didn't know if 'Ryno' had anything left in the tank, but I think he and Mitchell Johnson have been our two best bowlers over the past 12 months, even longer . . . I thought if we're going to get over the line, these two guys are the blokes to get us over the line.
"He just seems to find a way. You ask him to bowl he will bowl. He's got no energy left his body is killing him he will find a way to take a wicket for us. As captain you can't ask for more."
Australia's hopes of claiming victory surged after it removed the two stonewallers of Adelaide in 2012, A.B. de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, at either end of the second session to ensure the Proteas' tail was exposed for the entire last session. But that confidence was dented by the assured, and occasionally destructive, batting of Vernon Philander that took the home team to 7-246 after 119 overs.
From the next delivery the visitors claimed South Africa's last specialist batsman courtesy of an inspired field placement by captain Michael Clarke. Left-hander Duminy glanced what seemed a poor Johnson delivery angled past his leg-stump, but it went straight to Nathan Lyon at leg-slip. Clarke did exactly the same in the first innings in Sydney in January to claimed another left-hander, England's Michael Carberry, off Johnson.
Duminy's departure for 43 off 99 balls left South Africa needing two of Philander, Dale Steyn and last man Morne Morkel to survive for the last 90 minutes.
Australia was just one wicket from victory when Johnson bounced out Philander, but it proved to be a fleeting celebration as Philander's challenged Aleem Dar's adjudication he had hit the delivery caught at short-leg by Alex Doolan.
The replay indicated the ball from Johnson had brushed Philander's bottom glove as he attempted to fend away a throat-bound delivery, which then ricocheted off his shoulder to Doolan. After a prolonged adjudication the decision was dramatically overturned by video umpire Richard Illingworth, seemingly on the basis Philander's bottom hand may not have touching his bat handle the time of the ball's impact.
What made the decision particularly contentious is that video umpires customarily are only overruled if the on-field decision can be conclusively proved to be wrong. While Philander's glove was not in contact with the bat it was not certain there rest of his glove was also off the handle.
The decision was immediately followed by a drinks break, at which Clarke and Steyn had to be separated by the umpires after a spat that followed Philander's reprieve.
That drinks break heralded the last hour of the match. While Nathan Lyon was economical - his figures of 0-10 from 22 overs featured 17 maidens - his inability to tempt the batsmen into uncertain shots made Clarke look elsewhere.
The increasingly buoyant home supporters at Newlands were given another reason to cheer in the 131st over when Philander because the first South Africa batsman of the innings to reach a half-century, from 91 balls.
Shane Watson had been sparingly used for the majority of the second innings but he was entrusted with the ball from one end as Australia strained for the first of the two wickets it needed. From the other it was Johnson, despite into the sixth spell of a warm day on which he had already bowled 19 overs at express pace.
With just over five overs remaining Australia's made a hopeful referral against failed leg-before appeal by Johnson against Philander, but it failed because the ball was to have passed the right-hander's leg-stump.
The move by Clarke just as pivotal as his leg-slip placement that removed Duminy was bringing back Harris from Watson's end to bowl three of the last five overs.
The burly paceman needed only three deliveries. With the first with slipped a yorker under Steyn's bottom edge to leave South Africa 9-265.
The pain of the knee surgery he has delayed for three months was evident as he limped back to his bowling mark as Morne Morkel walked onto the field. But, as expected, there was no sign of that ailment once he ran into bowl.
The yorker again proved vital for Harris, as with the third ball of the over delivered around the wicket left-hander Morkel was helpless to stop it crashing into his stumps, prompting rapturous celebrations from the Australians.
In thriving in both innings Harris emphatically justified his selection for the Test, despite having claimed only three wickets at an average of 74.33 in the first two matches of the series.
Having started the final day with six wickets in hands the Proteas conceded only one wicket in the 39 overs of the first session: tailender Kyle Abbott for a determined 7 off 89 balls.
After day four their coach Russell Domingo said one of his personal goals for the final day was to see de Villiers, the world's top-ranked batsman, "score the slowest 40 in the history of the game".
Vice-captain de Villiers gave a fine unofficial audition for the team's captaincy vacancy in combining with first Abbott and then du Plessis to prevent any chance of a pre-lunch finish to the match with an innings that was, until the 228th ball he faced, chanceless.
While Australia's second innings ended with all but the bowler and wicketkeeper in the outfield, such was South Africa's hopeless position in the match, the Proteas were given no respite around the bat. Tailender Abbott was especially targeted by Australia captain Clarke, who placed everyone except the bowler in the infield.
Within the first hour of day five Australia was relying at spin at both ends, after Mitch Johnson, Ryan Harris and James Pattinson were all unable to break the stubborn fifth-wicket partnership.
Abbott's first - and only - boundary came courtesy of the inviting leg-spin of Steve Smith, from the 65th ball he faced. The frustration he was causing for the visitors was evident in Smith, in the following over, collecting the ball in his follow-through after an Abbott block and throwing it back, for which the tall South African had to duck to avoid it striking him.
The first 25 overs of day five produced only 24 runs, but that was of negligible importance compared to it not losing a wicket.
The trigger for the change was Clarke, after 11 overs of spin from each end. returned to pace. Abbott's hitherto good judgement deserted him when he left the first ball of Pattinson fourth spell and lost his off-stump from a regulation delivery angled into him.
Du Plessis, who memorably soaked up 376 balls in his stunning debut at the Adelaide Oval to thwart Australia, was greeted with barking, a response to him describing the Australian players as behaving like a "pack of dogs" when he batted in the first innings. The right-hander hit an early boundary, off Pattinson, but then returned to focusing on defence to be unbeaten on 14 off 44 balls.
The most interesting aspect of the assured 14-over stint de Villiers and du Plessis survived before lunch was captain Clarke being summoned by umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Aleem Dar for a lecture, believed to be about the way the Australians were regularly throwing the ball in to wicketkeeper Haddin on the bounce, a tactic which can aid reverse-swing if it tarnishes just one side of the ball.
Australia immediately took the second ball after lunch. Harris needed only 14 deliveries to claim the crucial scalp of de Villiers, after tempting the wicketkeeper-batsmen to play at a wide delivery he could have left alone. He edge behind, claimed by a grateful Brad Haddin, ended a 47-run partnership between he and du Plessis.
For the next 18 overs Clarke shuffled his bowlers in search of a wicket, to no avail. The breakthrough came courtesy of Smith. Having not produced anything positive of note in his first nine overs the first delivery of his fifth spell pitched on right-hander du Plessis' leg-stump and straightened in striking his pad. He challenged the leg-before decision against him but given presiding umpire Dharmasena's superb recent record regarding referrals - none of his preceding 17 challenged decisions in Test involving Australia had been overturned - it was no surprise the Sri Lankan's decision was vindicated by Hawk-Eye.
The last four overs of the session including Philander's top-edging an attempted hook off Mitch Johnson over his head for six. While it was good for South Africa's score, and entertaining for the sparse crowd, it indicated his was incapable of showing the type of discipline that de Villiers and du Plessis had earlier in the day. It was, however, an anomaly as Philander fought valiantly in the last session, especially after Duminy departed and he became the senior batsman.
It was as the senior batsman he remained, unbeaten, although it was as little comfort as the Australians snatched a dramatic late victory that demonstrated the best aspects of Test cricket.
Clarke declined to directly compare the significance of winning in South Africa compared to its home 5:0 thrashing of England, other than to say "an honest assumption would be that it's as good".
"The number-one team in the world have fought their absolute backside off to not give us the game, and we've had to fight even harder to win the game. We will learn from that," he said.
SOUTH AFRICA 2nd innings
ALVIRO PETERSEN lbw b Harris 9
GRAEME SMITH c Doolan b Johnson 3
DEAN ELGAR b Johnson 0
HASHIM AMLA lbw b Pattinson 41
AB DE VILLIERS c Haddin b Harris 43
KYLE ABBOTT b Pattinson 7
FAF DU PLESSIS lbw b Smith 47
JP DUMINIY c Lyon b Johnson 43
VERNON PHILANDER not out 51
DALE STEYN b Harris 1
MORNE MORKEL b Harris 0
TOTAL 265 (134.3 overs)
Fall: 12, 12, 15, 68, 95, 136, 173, 246, 265, 265.
BOWLING: Harris 4-32, Johnson 3-92, Pattinson 2-62, Lyon 0-10, Watson 0-6, Smith 1-43, Clarke 0-7