Johannesburg:Australia built a 297-run lead in their second innings when bad light stopped play on day three of the first Test against South Africa at Wanderers Stadium on Saturday.
The tourists reached 51 for one before the players left the field in the final session, staying off for 45 minutes until the umpires drew stumps 31 overs early.
Debutant Phillip Hughes, the youngest Australian Test debutant since Craig McDermott in 1984, avoided the ignominy of making two ducks as he was on 36 not out with Australia captain Ricky Ponting unbeaten on one.
Pace bowler Morne Morkel struck early to have Simon Katich caught behind for 10 in the 12th over of the innings, breaking a 38-run opening stand with Hughes.
Ponting joined the 20-year-old left-hander in an unbroken 13-run partnership for the second wicket but the rain came before the skipper could settle at the crease.
Earlier, AB de Villiers put up a fight for South Africa but ran out of partners, finishing unbeaten on 104 for his eighth Test century as the Proteas were dismissed for 220 runs in their first innings midway through the second session.
Dale Steyn made 17 in a 52-run ninth-wicket stand with de Villiers, who was put down by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin on 64, either side of lunch but Steyn edged Andrew McDonald to Marcus North at first slip to end the partnership.
Last man in Makhaya Ntini stuck around for 10 minutes, long enough for de Villiers to reach his hundred, before he was removed by Mitchell Johnson to wrap up the innings.
Johnson - who made a stunning 96 not out in Australia's first innings - returned superb figures of 4/25 to lead the attack while fellow speedster Peter Siddle took 3/76.
Soon after the start, Siddle had opener Neil McKenzie trapped leg-before after South Africa resumed their first innings at 85 for three.
McKenzie, who made 36, referred Steve Bucknor's decision to the third umpire but was given out. The drama heightened two overs later when the camera feed to the third umpire failed after Australia called a referral.
The tourists were confident JP Duminy clipped a Siddle delivery to Haddin, but Bucknor disagreed. Their referral was inconclusive with third umpire Asad Rauf's single-camera feed unavailable.
But Duminy, dropped by Ponting on 13, failed to take advantage of his chances and was caught behind off Johnson for 17. And three balls later South Africa used their last first-innings referral when Mark Boucher got the thinnest of edges to Haddin off Johnson and was given out by Billy Bowden.
Rauf agreed with the on-field umpire and Boucher walked without scoring. Morkel (2) and Paul Harris (1) added to South Africa's woes when they were removed before lunch.