| Alec Stewart runs out Graeme Smith on Day I of the final Test at The Oval on Thursday. (Reuters)
London: Opener Herschelle Gibbs scored a near flawless 183 as South Africa threatened to bat England out of the fifth Test as well as the series at The Oval on Thursday.
Needing just a draw for their first series success in England since 1965, the South Africans rattled along at four runs an over, on a pitch as perfect as the bowling was flawed, to close on 362 for four.
Gibbs, who had made 179 in the first Test, knew he needed to conjure up something special after pushing towards cover early in his innings and calling his captain for a suicidal single.
Graeme Smith, on 18, was left yards short by Michael Vaughanís throw. Gibbs, however, atoned for that by putting on 227 for the second wicket with Gary Kirsten while Smith, whose series began with 656 runs in four innings to be followed by 39 in the next four, twiddled his thumbs in the pavilion.
He had surely begun to forgive his opening partner by the time he joined him five-and-a-half hours and 258 balls later.
The 29-year-old right-handerís only other errors of judgement came when, shortly after reaching three figures, he rashly slogged James Anderson just over mid-on and just wide of cover off consecutive balls.
His dismissal, deep into the final session, was due more to weariness as he swished at Ashley Gilesís left-arm spin and was bowled.
Gibbs, driving beautifully, had hit 146 in boundaries, his one maximum hoisted straight over Gilesís head. Apart from two early leg before shouts, England failed to trouble him all day.
The left-handed Kirsten looked as composed and as willing to attack as he threatened to score his third century in three consecutive tests.
Ten short of that mark, however, he swept at Giles and was hit on the boot by a full toss. By the close, Jacques Kallis had reached 32 not out while Neil McKenzie fell to Anderson, caught behind for nine, off what proved to be the final ball of the day.
Giles was Englandís most successful bowler, with two for 75 off 21 overs, while allrounder Andrew Flintoff struggled, his 14 overs costing 73.