Stuart Broad enjoyed more joy in England's first Test appearance at Trent Bridge since their 2015 Ashes demolition of Australia, but South Africa showed improved resistance on an even first day of the second game of the four-match series.
The hosts have not played at Broad's home ground in the longest format since the seamer took 8-15 as Australia were bowled out for 60 in the first innings, England winning by an innings and 78 runs to reclaim the urn.
England could afford to have hope of another dominant performance versus the Proteas, who wilted far too easily in the first Test at Lord's, Joe Root leading his team to victory in his first game as captain as South Africa were beaten by 211 runs.
But South Africa, boosted by the return of captain Faf du Plessis - who missed the first Test following the birth of his first child - demonstrated improved resistance in seeing out the first day.
Broad took 3-47 but Hashim Amla (78) and Quinton de Kock (68) each scored half-centuries before Vernon Philander (54 not out) joined them in achieving that feat as he and Chris Morris (23no) put on an impressive unbeaten seventh-wicket stand of 74 to help South Africa to 309-6 at the close.
James Anderson (1-68) became the first fast bowler to take 300 wickets at home in removing Dean Elgar (6), Amla and Heino Kuhn putting on 48 before the latter dragged Broad on to his stumps for 34.
300 - @jimmy9 is the first bowler to take 300 Test wickets in England & Wales. Welcoming.-- OptaJim (@OptaJim) July 14, 2017
However, the dogged Amla and the more expansive De Kock frustrated England in a fine third-wicket stand of 113.
Amla took 93 balls to reach his fifty but did so in fine fashion with a straight six off Liam Dawson (0-26) that just reached the rope, though he was soon dropped on 56 by Alastair Cook.
De Kock's half-century came in just 59 balls and when he hit Ben Stokes (2-77) for successive fours to start the subsequent over the signs looked ominous for England.
Broad changed the momentum with the first ball after tea, though, De Kock top-edging him to Cook, before a short ball resulted in Amla finding Mark Wood at the rope for his third scalp.
Du Plessis (19) and Temba Bavuma (20) steadied the ship briefly but the collapse looked to be on after they each fell to Stokes.
However, Philander - who avoided a fracture after being struck on the hand in the first Test - took to his task superbly, producing extremely positive play to record his second fifty of the series in just 70 balls, he and Morris leaving England with work to do on day two.