England lost their opening pair to some torrid bowling on the second day of the first test against South Africa but went to lunch on 60-2 after earlier on Friday wrapping up first innings at Centurion Park.
Rory Burns and Dom Sibley departed cheaply as England's frontline woes continued under a barrage of hostile bowling from Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander.
But captain Joe Root, so often England's saviour in these situations, looked to steady the innings as he stymied any further inroads and was 23 not out at lunch
Joe Denly took 28 balls before he got off the mark and survived being dropped in the slips to reach lunch with 17 runs to his name.
England needed 11 balls at the start of play to dismiss South Africa, who were 277-9 overnight, for the addition of seven more runs.
Philander was the last wicket to fall for a handy 35 runs.
England's reply began dramatically when Burns was given out caught behind off the first delivery from Rabada but reviewed the decision and replays showed the bat had hit his pad rather than the ball.
England's James Anderson had dismissed South Africa's opener Dean Elgar with the first ball of the home innings on Thursday and a unique double was denied when umpire Paul Reiffel had to overturn his decision.
But Burns did depart not long after as a rising delivery from Philander, who bowled five successive maiden overs, caught the shoulder of his bat and carried through to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
Root then looked to steady the innings for his team, keeping up his penchant for hauling England out of difficult situations after a poor start to the innings.