Temba Bavuma became the first black African to make a Test hundred for South Africa as bat again dominated ball and England were made to toil on day four at Newlands.
A draw appears inevitable in the second Test at Cape Town after South Africa - 353-3 overnight - extended their mammoth first innings by a further 81 overs on Tuesday before declaring two runs behind on 627-7, with England subsequently reaching stumps on 16 without loss.
Skipper Hashim Amla progressed to 201, the fourth double-hundred of his career, but the moment of the penultimate day arrived in the evening session when Bavuma brought up his century to spark emotional celebrations.
While Bavuma's runs continued a theme of batsmen prospering on a flat pitch, the significance of his innings could hardly be underestimated against the backdrop of his nation's determination to address a lack of representation by black African players.
The diminutive batsman, whose selection for this Test had been questioned, counter-attacked effectively alongside debutant Chris Morris (69) in a seventh-wicket stand of 163, after England had threatened to open up the match with three wickets in quick succession after lunch.
Amla then declared to leave England, who again spurned a number of opportunities in the field, a tricky period to survive before the close, but Alastair Cook (8 not out) and Alex Hales (5no) held firm.
Having lost just one wicket in 87 overs on Monday, South Africa continued to make steady progress towards England's first-innings score on the fourth morning, Amla reaching 200 just before lunch.
The skipper's epic 477-ball knock, spanning almost 12 hours across three days, finally came to an end when he played on to Stuart Broad (2-94) five balls after being put down by James Taylor at short-leg.
And England were able to briefly entertain thoughts of victory when Faf du Plessis (88) edged James Anderson (1-77) to third slip in the next over and Quinton de Kock made just one before falling into a leg trap set by Broad.
Morris overcame an early blow to the helmet from Broad as South Africa responded positively, Bavuma exhibiting some elegant strokeplay as he struck 11 fours on his way to 50.
The tourists' frustration grew as Bavuma and Morris continued to prosper, both batsmen surviving chances after passing 50.
Steven Finn (2-132) eventually had Morris held at short extra cover by Joe Root, before Bavuma moved to three figures, from 141 deliveries, with an edge through the vacant second slip region off the same bowler.
Amla declared soon after in a bid to put England under pressure, but South Africa could not find a breakthrough in the six overs that remained.