Ricky Ponting built his 168-Test career on fighting characteristics, but the retiring great must be part of history if Australia are to avoid a knock-out series defeat to South Africa.
Superb displays from Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have virtually extinguished Australia's hopes of stealing the Proteas' No.1 Test ranking and clinching the series in Perth.
Openers Ed Cowan (9) and David Warner (29) survived a nervous final hour before stumps on day three, but at 0-40 Australia still require another 592 runs to win.
The Proteas were finally bowled out for 569 in their second innings as they set Australia a world record chase of 632.
Relentless from the start, South Africa went more than 200 runs past the biggest mark ever for a successful fourth innings chase - 418 by the West Indies against Australia in 2003.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur was in charge of South Africa when they chased 414 to win in Perth back in 2008-09.
Arthur said the Ponting factor had not drained the team, and Australia had to believe a win was possible.
"No, Ricky will get 250 not out in the second innings and it'll be fantastic," Arthur said.
"Obviously (retirement announcement) was very emotional ... but if anything it spurred the team on to send Ricky out in a really good way.
"We bat for two days, we win. We've got to believe we can do it.
"If we don't, there's no point turning up tomorrow.
"If we get through the new ball we can just bat. A couple of big partnerships and you never know what might happen."
Ponting will get a final innings to farewell Test cricket, and with two days left to bat, he'll certainly have plenty of time to set about building a big score.
But with the odds stacked against him and the team, Ponting is relying on a fairytale to end all fairytales if he's to go out on a high.
South Africa completely demoralised Australia for a second straight day on Sunday, with Amla (196) and de Villiers (169) the chief destroyers.
De Villiers said the Proteas needed to make sure they finished the job in raining on Ponting's parade.
"He's still got to come out and bat," de Villiers said.
"We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us tomorrow and day five if it goes that far ... but I believe we have the skill to get those 10 wickets.
"We haven't ruined his last Test match yet but hopefully we do."
The 569 was the biggest humiliation Australia's attack had suffered since the emphatic Ashes defeats of two summers ago and one of the biggest run chases they've ever been set.
The sheer dominance of Amla - who stroked 21 boundaries - pushed Australia to the brink.
De Villiers followed on from where he left off, smashing 21 boundaries, including three in a row from reverse sweeps to bring up 100, and three sixes in an emphatic return to form.
Mitchell Starc took a career-high 6-154 and Mitchell Johnson (4-110) claimed the other four wickets, but it was too little too late for Australia.
Australia feel nothing is completely out of the question, while ever game-changers Warner, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey are on deck.
Arthur thought his bowlers fought back well on day three and blamed the paltry 163 in the first innings as the reason for the deep hole Australia now finds themselves in.
"We paid the price for a very poor day two of the Test match," Arthur said.
"It's always the bowlers that end up getting caned but if we had got ourselves a 70-80 run lead like we had planned, the bowlers would have bowled with a different pressure."
Scoreboard after South Africa's second innings in the third Test against Australia at WACA Ground:
First innings 225
First innings 163
A PETERSEN c & b Johnson 23
G SMITH c Lyon b Starc 84
H AMLA c & b Johnson 196
J KALLIS c Johnson b Starc 37
AB de VILLIERS c Wade b Starc 169
D ELGAR lbw Johnson 0
F DU PLESSIS c Clarke b Johnson 27
R PETERSON c Johnson b Starc 0
V PHILANDER not out 14
D STEYN c Wade b Starc 8
M MORKEL b Starc 0
Extras (4b 4lb 3w) 11
Fall: 28 (Petersen), 206 (Smith), 287 (Kallis), 436 (Amla), 436 (Elgar), 538 (du Plessis), 539 (Peterson), 557 (de Villiers), 569 (Steyn), 569 (Morkel).
Bowling: M Starc 28.5-3-154-6 (1w), S Watson 9-3-24-0, M Johnson 25-1-110-4, J Hastings 19-1-102-0 (1w), N Lyon 22-2-128-0, M Hussey 4-0-26-0 (1w), D Warner 3-0-14-0, R Ponting 1-0-3-0.
E COWAN not out 9
D WARNER not out 29
Extras (2lb) 2
Total (no wickets) 40
Bowling: D Steyn 5-2-14-0, V Philander 5-0-15-0, M Morkel 3-0-9-0.
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