Anrich Nortje starred as a disciplined South Africa attack snuffed out England's hopes of an improbable victory in the first Test at Centurion.
Nortje claimed the key wickets of England's top scorer Rory Burns for 84 and captain Joe Root two shy of a battling half-century as the Proteas won by 107 runs.
Bowling with pace and hostility to make the most of a pitch giving variable bounce to the pacemen, Nortje (3-56) was the standout performer as South Africa dispensed with the loose third-evening efforts that left England with a sense they might challenge a lofty victory target of 376.
Kagiso Rabada ensured Jos Buttler's blistering 22-run contribution was no more than a brief cameo to snuff out England's last realistic hopes, before bowling Stuart Broad and wrapping things up with figures of 4-103 - ending a run of five consecutive defeats in Tests for Faf du Plessis' men in the process.
No batsman other than Burns managed to pass 50 for England in the second innings as the tourists, whose camp was ravaged by illness before and during the match, collapsed from 204-3 to 268 all out.
However, the damage was truly done by a pitiful first-innings effort of 181 that meant a deficit of 103 after Root's eyebrow-raising decision to bowl after winning the toss.