Chasing 325 just to make the visitors bat again, the home team crashed to 319 all out in their second innings shortly before the scheduled close on the fourth day.
As has become a regular feature now, Team India gave its supporters hopes of avoiding an innings defeat -- and taking the match to the fifth day -- only to crush them when they had actually started believing in that possibility.
It was South Africa's fifth Test win in India in 11 attempts. More importantly, it was India's first Test defeat in 15 matches.
Since losing the third Test at Colombo to Sri Lanka [ Images ] in August 2008, India had won eight -- including the last four in succession and drawn six of its last 14 Tests.
It was also M S Dhoni's [ Images ] first Test loss at the helm of affairs. Indian's captain had an impeccable (and flawless) record thus far, winning eight (and drawing three) of his 11 previous Tests since an injury to Anil Kumble [ Images ], ahead of the third Test (also against South Africa) at Kanpur in April 2008, handed him the leadership for the first time.
Hashim Amla [ Images ], who scored 253 not in South Afirca's first innings, was named man of the match, while Dale Steyn [ Images ], who wrecked India's first innings, claiming seven wickets for 51 runs, was adjudged all-rounder of the match.
Morning session (96 runs, 26 overs, two wickets):
As the fourth day's proceeding started, the Indians had their hopes pinned on Tendulkar. Statistics narrated a different story though. Tendulkar's average against South Africa (34.97) is his worst among all the Test-playing nations.
And the Master Blaster started the day surviving a huge appeal off the first delivery he faced from Steyn.
The ball pitched outside the off and appeared to have an edge; Boucher, who was back keeping, and Steyn went up in unison. But the umpire wasn't interested. Television replays vindicated his stand -- the ball had in fact clipped Tendulkar's pad en route to the keeper.
Five balls later the Master Blaster played a cut past point to score his first boundary of the day.
In Steyn's second over, Tendulkar smashed him past square leg for a second boundary. And by the time he drove Harris through midwicket for his third the crowd had gone berserk.
Tendulkar's intentions by then were very palpable. He was definitely not interested in playing a defensive game and try to kill time.
Instead, he was keen on taking the attack to the opposition. The only deterrent to that -- there wasn't much support at the other end.
But Vijay failed to support him.
The Tamil Nadu batsman made 32 before top-edging a Paul Harris delivery to Morne Morkel [ Images ] at fine leg.
Vijay faced 90 balls and hit four boundaries during his 72-run stand for the third wicket with Tendulkar. But, eventually, he was found lacking in patience, a trait that led to his downfall.
Tendulkar found fortune by his side when Jacques Kallis [ Images ] dropped him at first slip (off Parnell). But he continued attacking and soon completed his 55th Test half century by stering Parnell past gully for a boundary. It was his 100th 50-plus score in Test cricket.
It was his sixth half century against South Africa, but his first in more than three years -- after his 64 at Newlands in January 2007 and his first against the Proteas on Indian soil in 10 years, after his 97 at the Wankhede in February 2000.
Meanwhile, it took S Badrinath 17 balls and about 30 minutes of crease occupation to score his first run, a single off Parnell behind square-leg. And another 11 to get his second.
Two balls later he got his first boundary, but the next ball after that he edged a Parnell delivery straight to Boucher. India reduced to 122 for four.
The Tamil Nadu captain, who had scored a well-made fifty on debut in the first innings, could manage only six in the second.
At lunch, India were 162 for four with Tendulkar batting on 77 and M S Dhoni on nine.
Defeat still seemed the lone eventuality, but in Tendulkar rested India's faint hopes of saving the match.
Post-lunch session (61 runs, 30 overs, two wickets):
The post-lunch session was characterized by some really slow batting to begin with.
The fact that only 29 runs was scored in 16 overs in the first hour of play is self explanatory.
The plan was simple: to kill as much time as possible with the hope of taking the game into a fifth day, besides avoiding the ignominy of an innings defeat.
With four premier batsman back in the pavilion and the last recognized pair -- Tendulkar and Dhoni -- at the crease, the Indian think tank certainly didn't have ample confidence in the tail.
The highlight of the session was yet another century from the icon's blade. The Master Blaster's resilient hundred came off 179 balls and comprised 13 hits to the fence.
It was his 46th Test hundred, his third in three matches in 2010, having scored in both the Tests against Bangladesh last month.
However, it is only the fourth occasion that Tendulkar reached three figures against South Africa and the first time since November 2001, when he scored 155 at the OUTsurance Oval, Bloemfontein.
Most importantly, though, it was the ace batsman's first hundred against the Proteas at home, his three previous three-figure scores having all come on South African wickets.
The 36-year-old put on a crucial 70 runs for the fifth wicket with his captain before being dismissed at a time India could ill afford.
Tendulkar has never been comfortable with the leg stump line throughout his illustrious career and Harris capitalised on this discomfort, bowling him round the legs.
And Dhoni's dismissal, caught by AB de Villiers [ Images ] at forward short leg, compounded the misery, reducing them to 209 for six. The Indian captain made 25.
Harris, written off by experts at the start, had helped himself to three vital wickets in the second essay and justified his place in the side.
Post-tea session (96 runs, 28.1 overs, four wickets):
Whenever there's no pressure, Harbhajan Singh's [ Images ] bat (not his mouth) does the talking. Tuesday was no different.
With defeat an eventuality, and no pressure after all the key batsmen back in the pavilion, he decided to regale the crowd with some lusty hitting, a six over long-on off Harris being the pick of the lot.
South Africa took the second ball after 82 overs.
And, as Harbhajan flashed at Steyn's second ball, it went flying past a leaping AB de Villiers at the third slip, kissing his finger tips on its way to the fence.
But he didn't survive long, Parnell trapped him plumb in front. Harbhajan's 39 was inclusive of six boundaries and the above-mentioned maximum. He and Saha put on 50 runs for the seventh wicket.
Harbhajan's dismissal reduced India to 259 for seven.
Saha and Zaheer put on a valuable 59 runs for the eighth wicket before Zaheer reckessly pulled Kallis and Harris made no mistake at mid-off.
Steyn trapped Saha (36) in front in the next over for his first wicket of the day. And, in his next over, cleaned up Amit Mishra [ Images ] (0) for his second.
The 26-year-old finished with impressive figures of three for 57 in the second innings and match figures of 10 for 108, the fourth occasion he has taken 10 wickets or more in a match.