Fresh from their series defeat in India, Ricky Ponting's Aussies were expected to return to the routine of smashing opponents around on home turf – notwithstanding the talent of the current South Africa side.
A 2-0 series win against New Zealand had the train back on the rails before the arrival of Graeme Smith's saboteurs, with two gutsy fightbacks by the Proteas in each of the two Tests so far have leaving the hosts with some hard questions before their Ashes tour of England in the summer.
Hashim Amla hit the winning runs on Tuesday as the tourists reached their target of 183 to win by a massive nine wickets.
Captain Smith stroked 75 before falling just before lunch as Neil McKenzie, with 59 not out, and Amla saw South Africa home.
Dale Steyn, who took five wickets in the Aussies' second innings and hit 76 in South Africa's first, was voted man-of-the-match.
Ponting must deal with the reality of becoming the first captain in 16 years to cede a series defeat at home, while question marks hang over the futures of batsmen Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey – giants of their craft currently going through torrid spells.
Where paceman Brett Lee used to provide the support for Glenn McGrath in the attack, he now holds the cutting edge without which his own support bowlers look lacking.
And after Jason Krejza's promising start in India, it now looks like there will be a long, hard search for a replacement capable of hitting half the heights of spin legend Shane Warne.
Ponting said there were few positives to be taken from his side's performances.
"South Africa have outplayed us in all the big moments of these two Test matches," he said.
"There are some positives there for us, but not many. This is a series win for them that's well-deserved."
The sides now travel to Sydney for the third and final Test, with Australia needing to turn their big starts into a win.
They had set South Africa a huge run chase of 414 in the first match in Perth, only to see their opponents whittle it down with little fuss.
And on day two at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground the tourists were 198-7, almost 200 runs behind Australia, before Steyn and rookie Duminy shared an incredible ninth-wicket partnership of 180 to get the Proteas back in the match.