If chasing a record victory target of 474 wasn't enough, the dismissal of South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis on day three of the second Test underlined just how big a task England face to stave off defeat at Trent Bridge.
And former skipper Michael Vaughan believes the dismissal also proves why towering Proteas quick Morne Morkel will be the key man in South Africa's push to level the series on Monday.
Quick Single: England facing massive run chase
Du Plessis posted a composed half-century on Sunday as the tourists rammed home their advantage before a delivery from the impressive Ben Stokes all but rolled along the ground and trapped the skipper dead in front for 63.
It was a much-needed boost on a tough day for the hosts, but it was also an ominous sign as they face the prospect of batting for two full days on the same deteriorating surface in order to save the match or somehow pull of what would be a record-breaking victory.
"With the pitch, seeing what it's done today, the odd ball has kept low," Vaughan told BBC. "That ball that Ben Stokes bowled to Faf du Plessis scooted along the floor.
"I just think that Morne Morkel in particular will get that uneven bounce. It's not going to be easy for England.
"It will not be easy for the left-handers to face (spinner Keshav) Maharaj so I expect him to be a threat. I think the first spell of (seamer Vernon) Philander with the newish ball is going to be crucial.
"But I've just got a feeling Morne Morkel ... we saw Stokes charge in and get the odd ball to keep low, I think Morne Morkel is going to be the real threat."
While Vaughan agreed England were unlikely to deny the tourists a series-levelling win, he said the hosts had a golden opportunity to show plenty of fight with the bat and gain some momentum heading into the third Test.
"I think we all just want to see a bit of fight, a bit more application than we saw in the first innings,” he said.
"England have got to surprise us because we'd all expect England to lose (on Monday). Surprise us. Take it into Tuesday, take it into Tuesday afternoon. Surprise everyone in conditions that are against you ... go and do something that we all don't expect.
"(Captain Joe Root will tell his players) let's make sure we're batting tomorrow night. Let's make sure we take this game into the last day and not fold like we did in the first innings.
"You can't look at the big picture of winning this game. History tells us that's not going to happen. Let's just make sure we take this into the last day and you just never know."