Bresnan to the fore as England hit back
Tim Bresnan kick-started England's belated progress in the second Investec Test, on his home ground, once cloud cover rolled in at Headingley.
England endured an ominously and controversially wicketless first session, after Andrew Strauss won the toss.
However, Bresnan struck twice, taking England's first wicket in more than 10 hours dating back to day three of the innings defeat at The Oval - when he had Graeme Smith caught at square-leg - and then running out Hashim Amla as South Africa faltered from 120 without loss to a teatime 163 for three.
Both James Anderson, after Alastair Cook's dropped slip catch, and then - in bizarre circumstances - Steven Finn came frustratingly close to dislodging a South Africa opener before lunch.
Cook put down Alviro Petersen (76no) on 29; then first-change Finn thought he had Smith neatly caught at first slip by Strauss for six, only for umpire Steve Davis to call dead-ball after the fast bowler repeated his uncanny habit of disturbing the bails at the non-striker's end in his delivery stride.
Smith (52) and Petersen had little initial trouble against England's all-pace attack, the hosts having left out off-spinner Graeme Swann for the first time in three-and-a-half years. Anderson should have had Petersen, reprieved by Cook when he missed a straightforward chance.
But worse was to follow for England because Finn, returning here in place of Swann, paid dearly for his strange stump-kicking act and gave Smith a second chance. Petersen was past his 78-ball 50 before lunch, with a pull at Bresnan for his seventh four, and Smith reached his from 91 deliveries in early afternoon.
But the South Africa captain was to succumb at last to England's packed leg-side field, and only three overs later the hosts picked up the significant bonus of Amla's wicket too.
A misfield by Jonathan Trott at cover, misunderstanding between Amla and Petersen - and Bresnan's fine throw from the extra-cover boundary - did for the Oval triple-centurion before he could even make double-figures this time.
When Cook redeemed himself with a smart catch low to his left, at second slip again, after Jacques Kallis toe-ended an attempted cut at Anderson, England needed the threat of rain to hold off. It did not quite manage to do so until the scheduled tea break, which therefore came three minutes early.