Dale Steyn, second left, took five of England's second-innings wickets
Ian Bell's admirable resistance foundered against Dale Steyn as England descended to an innings defeat in the first Investec Test.
Bell (55) strove with great resolution and skill to try to make up for England's earlier deficiencies against South Africa at the Kia Oval.
However, Steyn (five for 56) administered the telling blows with the second new ball shortly before tea on the final day as the tourists bowled England out for 240 to win by an innings and 12 runs and go 1-0 up in the series.
Much damage was done to home aspirations at the start of this table-topping series by their first-innings batting and then an inability to contain South Africa's reply on a flat pitch. On the back of Hashim Amla's historic triple-century, and hundreds too from captain Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, the tourists piled up an astonishing 637 for two declared.
World number ones England found themselves a vulnerable 102 for four, still 150 behind, as they resumed on a glorious morning. Bell tried to show some British backbone nonetheless. He dug in, and England retained hope of pulling off another famous rearguard.
This time, England were pinning initial hopes on remaining frontline batsmen Bell and Ravi Bopara. However, the fifth-wicket pair, who first joined forces on Sunday night, had just completed a 50 stand when Bopara got out in frustrating circumstances for the second time in the match to Steyn.
Bell appeared to be in for the long haul, though, dealing stoically with South Africa's powerful and multi-dimensional attack on a surface showing fifth-day wear and tear but by no means unplayable. While Bell and Matt Prior's sixth-wicket stand of 86 was intact, there was a feasibility about England's survival.
Yet just as English supporters were daring to dream, Prior picked the wrong option - stretching for a sweep at Tahir (three for 63) but only edging to slip. Bell could not get past the second new ball and Steyn, undone by movement away off the pitch, and the extra pace, with a delivery which appeared to slide off the face of the bat to Kallis at second slip.
Steyn doubled up with the wicket of Stuart Broad, caught-behind down the leg-side after a DRS procedure overturned Asad Rauf's initial not-out verdict. From 210 for eight, with no specialist batsmen left, it therefore appeared only the margin of England's defeat remained to be determined.
So it proved too, appropriate ultimately that the world's premier fast bowler should take three wickets for four runs to help close out South Africa's success and England lost their last five for only 37 on the way to 240 all out - a fair representation of the gulf between these two teams here.