CAPE TOWN - Sachin Tendulkar cracked his 51st Test century in difficult conditions as India eked out a slender 2-run first innings lead and then scalped two quick wickets to take a slight upper hand in the series-deciding third Test against South Africa. Tendulkar held the innings together brilliantly to not only notch up his second century in the series but also pull India out of trouble and keep its hopes alive for a first ever series triumph on South African soil. Apart from Tendulkar's heroic 146, Gautam Gambhir (93) and Harbhajan Singh (40) were the other notable contributors as India scored 364 in response to South Africa's first innings total of 362. The hosts were struggling at 52/2 at close on the third day with Harbhajan Singh claiming the wickets of skipper Graeme Smith (29) and Paul Harris (0). Alviro Petersen (22) and Hashim Amla (0) were at the crease when play came to an end on an absorbing third day. With two full days of play left in the decider India will try to capture the remaining eight wickets as quickly as possible and push for a victory. It was an engrossing tussle between the bat and the ball right through the day with South African speedster, particularly Dale Steyn, who returned with figures of 5/75, getting a lot of movement with the second new ball. Steyn produced a brilliant first over to Tendulkar who was repeatedly beaten as the balls kept swinging away. Tendulkar was a little uncomfortable with the late movement Steyn got in his first over. But the champion batsman gradually settled down to unleash some delightful strokes on both sides of the wicket, a majestic drive through covers off Steyn standing out. Gambhir also grew in confidence as he pulled Morne Morkel for a boundary, though some of his strokes were a little streaky. The third wicket pair of Gambhir and Tendulkar put on 176 runs before spinner Paul Harris provided the breakthrough much to the relief of the South Africans. Gambhir fell to a ball that jumped after pitching on the rough and the left hander got a thin edge. Mark Boucher took a smart catch behind the stumps. VVS Laxman, who joined the action after Gambhir's departure, struck three delectable boundaries, before returning to the pavillion in a tragic manner. Ironically, a dropped chance of Tendulkar by Harris led to Laxman's run out. Tendulkar went down the track and smashed the ball straight to Harris who just about managed to get some hand on it. Laxman was outside his crease and the ball fell on the stumps at his end. The Indians added 95 runs in 32 overs in an engrossing two and half hour pre-lunch session. Tendulkar brought about his century with a six off Morkel shortly after the lunch break in an absorbing post lunch session which saw Steyn produce a fiery spell to dismiss Cheteswar Pujara (2) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) in span of 9 deliveries. The young Pujara was dismissed in the very first over after lunch, trapped leg before wicket to a gem of a delivery from Steyn to reduce India to 237/5. Harbhajan had a huge slice of luck when a Steyn express delivery clipped the edge of the off-stump but the bails did not fall much to the disbelief of the South Africans. The feisty spinner celebrated the reprieve by clobbering Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who replaced Morkel from the pavilion end, for a huge six in the square leg region. He then cracked him for a boundary. Tendulkar and Harbhajan stitched an unfinished 69-run partnership for the seventh wicket to take India beyond the 300-run mark and inch closer to the South African total. Harbhajan (40) perished immediately after the tea break as he went for the short-arm pull to a short-pitched ball from Steyn but could not connect well and substitute JP Duminy ran in from deep square-leg take the catch. It brought an end to the vital 76-run seventh wicket partnership which pulled India out of a difficult situation. Morkel then got the prized scalp of Tendulkar with a superb delivery which dislodged the off stump. Tendulkar's knock of 146 came off 314 balls and was laced with 17 boundaries and two sixes Scorecard South Africa 1st innings: 362 India 1st innings (overnight 142-2): Gambhir c Boucher b Harris 93 Sehwag c Smith b Steyn 13 Dravid run out 5 Tendulkar not out 136 Laxman run out 15 Pujara lbw b Steyn 2 Dhoni c Prince b Steyn 0 Harbhajan Singh not out 34 EXTRAS: (lb-16 w-1 nb-1) 18 TOTAL: (for six wickets, 107 overs) 316 Fall of wickets: 1-19 2-28 3-204 4-235 5-237 6-247 BOWLING: Steyn 26-10-55-3 Morkel 27-7-96-0 (1-nb,1-w) Tsotsobe 26-5-82-0 Harris 26-7-58-1 Petersen 2-0-9-0. South Africa second innings: Smith lbw b Harbhajan 29 Petersen not out 22 Harris lbw b Harbhajan 0 H Amla not out 0 EXTRAS: (nb-1) 1 TOTAL: (two wickets, 16 overs) 52 Fall of wickets: 1-50 2-52. BOWLING: Zaheer 5-0-25-0 Sreesanth 5-1-20-0 Ishant 3-0-3-0 Harbhajan 3-0-4-2.