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England batting coach Graham Gooch is still hoping for a great escape at the Kia Oval.
But whatever the outcome of the first Investec Test, Gooch will be happy to congratulate South Africa's Hashim Amla on joining him as one of only six men to make a Test triple-century in this country.
Amla's tour de force 311 not out featured in stands of 259 with his captain Graeme Smith and then an unbroken 377 with Jacques Kallis (182no) in the tourists' monumental 637 for two declared.
After England had then wobbled to 102 for four, still 150 short of making South Africa bat again, the hosts were up against it on the final day to avoid going 1-0 down with two to play.
Should they fail, their world number one status will be in jeopardy.
Gooch was last night clinging to the belief they could, but made it clear too Amla deserves the plaudits for his outstanding innings.
"I thought it was a wonderful effort," he said. "To score runs you need a great attitude, a good technique, good knowledge and above all spot-on concentration.
"I think he showed all four things.
"He's developed his game over the years since he made his debut. He's got a good range of shot, and a great temperament.
"He needs to be congratulated - a fantastic effort from a very good player."
England will not need a triple-century to rescue a draw, but a hundred would be handy.
Their best hopes rest with not-out batsmen Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara, the latter one of Gooch's Essex proteges.
"It's a different sort of opportunity, but one you face a lot in Test cricket," he said of the challenge facing England.
"Sometimes you go in, where you're trying to set the tone, set up a game.
"This is a rearguard action, backs to the wall; you have to show your character; you have to show your quality with technique.
"It will be a test for both the guys in the middle and the other guys down the order. Each ball is the only ball that matters."
If England do not pull it off, it will be tough to recover over the next month - although a drawn series will be enough for them to stay at the top of the International Cricket Council table.
"If you go 1-0 down in a three-match series you are up against it, but you can still get back into the series," said Gooch.
"If you play well you have a chance, and England have quality to win matches. That's a given."
Amla, meanwhile, was last night confident - but far from arrogant - about South Africa's prospects of victory.
"I think you would rather be in our changing room, without a doubt," he said.
"Our bowlers have bowled really well to ruffle the feathers of the English team.
"They got the ball to talk a bit. I hope we can do some good things tomorrow."