Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, said his team's batsmen were to blame for the team's collapse to 47 all out in their second innings on a frenetic second day of the first Test against South Africa at Newlands on Thursday.
Twenty-three wickets fell for 294 runs on a day which ended with South Africa on 81 for one, 155 runs short of victory with nine wickets standing.
"The top seven as a batting unit need to take full responsibility for what occurred," Clarke said. "It's not good enough and me, as the leader, coming off a good first innings total, need to take the blame. Our shot selection was horrible and South Africa bowled well, but we shouldn't have been all out for 47."
Australia's extraordinary collapse came after they had seemed to be in a dominant position, bowling out South Africa for 96 to take a first innings lead of 188.
"I've never had a day like this in my career and I hope I never will again," said Clarke, whose day started brightly enough as he took his first-innings score from 107 to 151 before he was last man out, with Australia's last two wickets adding 70 runs in a respectable total of 284.
It got even better for the Australian skipper. Shane Watson took five wickets in 20 balls as South Africa were shot out for 96, losing their last nine wickets for 47 runs in 11.3 overs. Watson finished with five for 17, while Ryan Harris took four for 33.
But Watson was out to Dale Steyn's third ball when he opened the batting in the second innings and Australia collapsed to 21 for nine.
Australia had the last-wicket pair Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon to thank for avoiding being dismissed for less than the world-record low of 26, by New Zealand against England in Auckland in 1954/55.
Siddle (12 not out) and Lyon (14) put on 26 for the last wicket, more than doubling their team's total and taking them past the world record and Australia's all-time low, 36 against England at Birmingham in 1902.
The previous lowest against South Africa was 75 in Durban in 1949/50.
The new cap Vernon Philander took five for 15 on a pitch which offered plenty of seam movement and had more pace than on the first day but which, as Clarke conceded, was by no means unplayable.
"The wicket quickened up a little bit and they [the South African bowlers] executed well. We can't blame the wicket," said Clarke.
The day ended with the South Africa captain Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla putting on an unbeaten 54 and batting with a freedom matched only by Clarke in the first innings to swing the odds back in the home team's favour.
Clarke admitted that Australia will need to produce another exceptional bowling performance on Friday to regain the advantage.
But he remained positive. "We're a good chance to win this Test match. As we've seen, things can change very quickly in this match." Jacques Rudolph, the South African opening batsman, playing in his first Test for five years, was the only man out in his team's second innings.
"It must be some sort of record. I've finished my batting and my fielding within two days - and we had rain yesterday," he said.
Meanwhile, Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel have been appointed part-time selectors by Cricket Australia, the cricket board said on Thursday.