England must chase down a world-record 474 to win the second test while South Africa have two full days to bowl them out after the tourists’ batsmen provided the strongest possible platform for victory on the third day on Sunday.
It could have even better for South Africa who, after declaring on 343-9 just before the close, thought they had Alastair Cook lbw first ball, although the decision was reversed on review.
No test team have scored more than 418 to win, while the record at Trent Bridge is a more modest 284-7, which England chalked up to beat New Zealand in 2004.
The bearded right-hander shared strong partnerships with Dean Elgar, who made a steadfast 80 after surviving a sharp early chance to Jimmy Anderson, and Faf du Plessis.
The day proved a first real captaincy test for England’s Joe Root, seeking to avoid his first defeat as captain in his second test as South Africa threatened to disappear out of sight.
Even the new ball failed to check the tourists, with Vernon Philander (42) and Chris Morris increasing the tempo as the sun came out in the final session.