South Africa, set 236 to win, were 81 for one at the end of a day on which 23 wickets fell for 294 runs.
The lowest test score was 26 by New Zealand against England in 1955 while Australia's lowest was 36 against England in 1902.
A dogged last-wicket stand of 26 from Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon made sure Australia steered clear of those unwanted records but it was their fourth lowest total, worst against South Africa and lowest score since 1902.
Hosts South Africa had earlier been bowled out for 96 on a reasonable-looking wicket after the tourists had made 284 in their first innings with captain Michael Clarke scoring 151.
Parts of all four innings will take place on the same day as 22 wickets fell.
In Image: South African Graeme Smith, second left, plays a shot as Australia's team members react, background