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Australia reach 2-121 at stumps in Hobart

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Rob Forsaith

It's likely to be a case of too little, too late but Australia showed sufficient fight on day three of the second Test to give the hosts faint hope of denying South Africa a series victory in Hobart.

Australia dug in to reach 2-121 when bad light ended play on Monday, reducing the Proteas' lead to 120 runs and extending a comeback that started with a six-wicket haul from Josh Hazlewood.

Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja, confronted with precise swing and seam movement from potent pacemen Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, did well to be unbeaten on 18 and 56 respectively at stumps.

South Africa remain well placed to taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, thanks to Quinton de Kock's knock of 104 and Australia's paltry first-innings total of 85.

But Smith's side have high hopes of snapping a four-Test losing streak and making the best possible response to fierce criticism.

"We've done pretty well with the bat," Hazlewood said.

"The boys have shown some good fight this afternoon, digging in even though the ball is still nipping around a fair bit.

"We talked about it a lot leading up to this game, about the tough periods ... we saw one this afternoon when Kyle Abbott and Rabada were bowling together and bowling quite well."

Based on how Australia's batting order has folded, most recently on Saturday for the nation's lowest Test total at home since 1984, it is likely Smith or Khawaja will have to bat through most of day four to give their side a chance of salvaging something from the match.

It remains unlikely but signs of South African frustration showed late as Australia batted through 36 overs, during which Faf du Plessis unsuccessfully reviewed two lbw shouts from Philander.

"We thought maybe we could sneak in and get a soft wicket like that, it would have been nice," de Kock said.

"We are fairly confident but it (winning) is not going to be easy though. The Aussies are batting really well."

Philander all but demanded his skipper refer a not-out verdict when Khawaja was on 35 in the 30th over.

Furious with a decision of 'umpire's call', the right-armer snarled at the batsman and soon after had a shy at the stumps when Khawaja defended a delivery back to him.

Khawaja was typically relaxed, while Smith laughed at Philander's attempt to intimidate.

Temba Bavuma missed a chance to run Khawaja out for 10

The left-hander and David Warner both regularly played and missed as the new ball zipped around after Australia again lost a wicket in the opening over of their innings.

Joe Burns was caught behind down the leg side for a duck, with du Plessis' successfully reviewing.

Warner was bowled on 45 by Abbott in incredible fashion. The ball ricocheted off the opener's thigh pad, elbow and dislodged one bail.

"Unlucky ... those things go against you when you least want them to," Hazlewood said.

The visitors resumed at 5-171 on Monday after showers forced day two to be abandoned without a ball being bowled.

De Kock shared a 144-run stand with Bavuma as the tourists built a first-innings total of 326.

Rain has impacted all three days of the match but the forecast is much better on days four and five.

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