Winger Aphiwe Dyantyi scored two tries as the Springboks upset the form book to record a 36-34 victory over New Zealand and send a World Cup message in an enthralling Rugby Championship clash at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday.
It was the first loss by the All Blacks to the Springboks in New Zealand since 2009 and first by Steve Hansen's side in the Rugby Championship since they were beaten 27-19 by Australia in 2015.
"It is unbelievable for us to beat New Zealand in New Zealand," Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus told reporters after the nail-biting contest.
"It gives us hope for the World Cup," he added in reference to their Pool B opener in Japan in a little over a year's time.
"We see New Zealand as the benchmark, but in three weeks' time when we run out at Loftus (in Pretoria) we know they will be fuming."
The Springboks had been given little chance before the match, having lost their previous two games and facing an All Blacks side who were averaging more than 40 points a game in the Rugby Championship.
Instead Steve Hansen's side found themselves under immense pressure for long periods as the Springboks fed off their mistakes to score five tries and tackled themselves to a standstill.
That defensive effort was none more evident in the last quarter with Willie Le Roux in the sinbin for 10 of the final 12 minutes for a professional foul.
"It's an awesome day for the team and an awesome day for South Africa," Springboks captain Siya Kolisi said. "It's also good for the World Cup.
"We wanted to do it for each other today. Even if it went their way we wanted to walk off the field and look each other in the eye and say 'I'm proud of you'."
The match had begun like many expected it would with Handre Pollard starting the game by kicking the ball dead and immediately placing his side under pressure.
The All Blacks capitalised and established a 12-0 lead through tries to Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith before the Springboks finally got into the game.
They pounced on All Blacks' errors and scored three unanswered tries to Dyantyi, Willie le Roux and Malcolm Marx to go into the break with 24-17 lead, which they extended two minutes into the second half when Cheslin Kolbe intercepted an Anton Lienert-Brown pass.
The world champions then began to dominate for long periods of the game and despite being 36-24 down when Dyantyi scored his second, they came storming back when Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea crossed to set up the nailbiting finish.
Despite being virtually camped on the Springboks' line, however, they were unable to breach the green wall, eschewed the opportunity of a drop goal and were denied when le Roux forced Damian McKenzie to lose the ball in a tackle.
The loss kept the southern hemisphere championship alive until at least the fifth round of games in two weeks' time.
"You've got to give them all the credit in the world the way they defended in that second half," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said.
"We threw everything at them, my boys kept working hard but the South Africans defended outstandingly well and obviously deserved their win.
"They put us under pressure and we didn't respond the way we needed."