Much better, but nowhere near safe. New Zealand's cricketers showed some of the fight they were sorely lacking on day one to slow their plummet towards defeat in the first test against South Africa.
After a woefully one-sided first day, the ledger was closer to even throughout day two at Newlands as the tourists fought to 169-4 in their second innings, still trailing by 133 overall.
After a gritty 51 from skipper Brendon McCullum, Dean Brownlie provided the backbone for New Zealand in the most significant knock of his eight-test career. At stumps he was 69 not out, eight short of his highest score after being dropped twice and struck twice with painful body blows from South African speedster Dale Steyn.
BJ Watling (10 not out) will resume with Brownlie with many long hours of toil required for New Zealand, still in a hopeless position after their darkest hour, 45 all out in the first innings.
At least the monumental embarrassment of a two-day test was averted, although their woeful Wednesday will never be shaken from cricket followers' memories. New Zealand will now do supremely well to force this test into a fourth day, or even make the hosts bat again.
After South Africa declared at 347-8, a monumental task faced McCullum and Martin Guptill as they strode out trailing by 302, and Steyn and first day standout Vernon Philander pawing at the ground.
Guptill's awful run of test scores continued when he mistimed a leg side shot at Steyn, sixth ball, and spooned a catch to short mid-wicket.
New Zealand's cricketer of the year is seriously struggling in whites, having scored 118 in his last 10 test innings with just one score above 20.
It was down to the new captain, McCullum, to take the body blows and scrap for his team as the pitch played few tricks.
He survived some testing early overs and took blows on the bicep area and the rib cage from an angry Steyn. It was gripping stuff and a welcome relief from the meek first innings surrender.
Kane Williamson (15) also dug in for 78 minutes and looked more composed than his captain, but five minutes from tea he played loosely at a wide offering from Jacques Kallis and was caught in the slip cordon.
South Africa's fielding blunders then gave New Zealand a leg up with three dropped catches in 12 balls. McCullum, on 39, and Brownlie, on 23, were both given lives off Steyn, while Petersen also shelled Brownlie at gully, off Philander.
Brownlie lasted just three Philander deliveries in the first innings. This time he received some friendly short and wide ones, his area of strength, and put them away. He raced along, taking 12 off a Philander over and sprinting to his half-century off 44 balls, with eight boundaries.
McCullum batted 146 minutes and played some textbook straight drives as he reached his 25th test half-century. He deserved more, but, as happens after an intense period of pace, the introduction of spin undid him.
Left-armer Robin Peterson trapped McCullum, half-forward, and it looked a good shout. He challenged via the decision review system but it always looked a long shot. McCullum and Brownlie added a brisk 89 off 81 balls but much more was required.
Kallis was a thorn in New Zealand's side again as he went around the wicket to Daniel Flynn (14) and enticed an inside edge after he hung around for nearly an hour.
Brownlie and Watling survived a tense period to stumps in the shadows, with Brownlie given out caught behind off Steyn on 68, but successfully challenged umpire Rod Tucker's decision.
Earlier, after South Africa resumed on 252-3, New Zealand's bowlers made steady progress in an improved effort before home skipper Graeme Smith declared 20 minutes after lunch.
Trent Boult (3-78) and Chris Martin (3-63) were the most successful; the former knocking over Alviro Petersen for 106 and the latter accounting for AB de Villiers (67) when he wandered across his stumps. Martin remained the third choice New Zealand seamer and wasn't thrown the second new ball.
Doug Bracewell (1-93) was also marginally better, but still went at close to four per over.
Scoreboard at the close of the second day of the first test between South Africa and New Zealand at Newlands:
First innings 45
First innings (overnight 252-3)
G Smith lbw b Bracewell 1
A Petersen b Boult 106
H Amla lbw b Franklin 66
J Kallis c Watling b Boult 60
AB De Villiers b Martin 67
F du Plessis c Williamson b Martin 15
D Edgar c Watling b Boult 21
R Peterson b Martin 5
V Philander not out 0
Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-2, nb-1) 6
Total (eight wickets declared, 95.2 overs) 347
Fall of wickets: 1-1 2-108 3-212 4-255 5-281 6-335 7-342 8-347
Bowling: Boult 21-2-78-3 (1w), Bracewell 24-4-93-1, Martin 19.2-4-63-3 (nb-1, 1w), Franklin 14-1-50-1, Patel 17-4-60-0
M Guptill c Amla b Steyn 0
B McCullum lbw b Peterson 51
K Williamson c Petersen b Kallis 15
D Brownlie not out 69
D Flynn c de Villiers b Kallis 14
BJ Watling not out 10
Extras (b-1, lb-8, w-1) 10
Total (four wickets, 52 overs) 169
Fall of wickets: 1-0 2-29 3-118 4-155
Bowling: Steyn 14-2-38-1, Philander 13-5-53-0, Morkel 12-4-29-0, Kallis 6-1-19-2 (1w), Peterson 7-2-21-1
- © Fairfax NZ News
Who's the best test cricket captain?