The Lions almost pulled off what would have been a famous win in Durban this afternoon but South Africa held on for a 26-21 victory in the first Test of the three-match series.
The Springboks were leading 26-7 with 11 minutes left but took their eye off the ball allowing Tom Croft and Mike Phillips to dot down and set up a grandstand finish.
The World Champions completely bossed the first half destroying the Lions at both the scrum and the line out. John Smit, the South African captain, stormed over for a try as early as the fifth minute and Ruan Piennar rubbished doubts over his goal kicking landing a couple of penalties and a conversion.
Tom Croft got the Lions on the scoreboard with a try after some brilliant link up play from Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll. Stephen Jones added the conversion but missed two crucial penalties leaving the tourists trailing 19-7 at the break.
Things were looking ominous for the Lions early in the second half when the Springboks mauled their way from halfway to set up for Heinrich Brussow for a try which again underlined the Boks' superiority up front.
But with Wales' centre Jamie Roberts ripping the South African defence to shreds whenever he got his hands on the ball the Lions still had a glimmer of hope. Ugo Monye wasted two brilliant scoring opportunities in either half and Stephen Jones went close to putting Tommy Bowe in the clear late on for what could have been the winning score.
Despite making a raft of substitutions late in the second half South Africa held on thanks to some excellent scramble defence, but the second half fightback at least gives the Lions something to take into next week's second test in Pretoria.