With 7-68 from the first innings, Johnson needed just two overs to remove both South African openers in the second as the Proteas limped to 132-5 at tea on the fourth day facing a target of 482.
Bowling fast and short, left-arm quick Johnson removed Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith inside four overs, and then JP Duminy before tea. Peter Siddle had Faf du Plessis lbw and Ryan Harris dismissed Hashim Amla for 35 as Australia rattled through South Africa's top order for the second time in the match.
Earlier Johnson struck in his first two overs of South Africa's second innings to leave the Proteas 65-3 at lunch on the fourth day and still way behind. Left-arm quick Johnson removed openers Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith inside four overs and Peter Siddle had Faf du Plessis lbw for 18.
Australia and Johnson have had South Africa on the ropes throughout the opening match and were closing in on a strong win at SuperSport Park to start the three-match series, where Australia is now far more than just a mere challenger to South Africa's status as the No. 1 team in the world.
Dominating with bat as well as ball, Australia had earlier declared its second innings on 290-4 in the third over of play for a huge lead of 481 after a century by David Warner and 89 by debutant Alex Doolan. Warner's power-packed hundred was the third Australian century of the game, and his double-century in tandem with Doolan the tourists' second stand of over 200.
Bowled out for 206 in the first innings after 7-68 by the red-hot Johnson, South Africa was 12-2 at one point in its second innings after another blistering spell by the ferocious Australia fast bowler.
Johnson forced Petersen (1) out to an edge behind to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin in the second over and removed South Africa captain Smith for 4 to a sharp catch by Doolan at short leg in the fourth over, bowling with the same lightning speed and aggression he used to destroy South Africa in the first innings with his 7-68.
South Africa was still 417 runs short of victory at lunch, with Hashim Amla 22 not out. The highest successful fourth-innings total by a team in a test at Centurion is only 251.
And after Johnson's two immediate strikes, Australia was in position to win the series-opener and become the first team to beat South Africa in a test at Centurion in 14 years, and only the second ever.
At the start of the day, Australia skipper Michael Clarke, who was batting at the time, called a halt to the Aussie second innings as soon as Shaun Marsh fell to Dale Steyn for 44 in the third over, setting South Africa an unlikely victory target of 482 that was made much more unlikely with Johnson's near-unplayable form.
The unstoppable Johnson has posted 9-95 thus far in the match.
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