|Tendulkar resisted the South African attack but fell shortly after his century [AFP]
South Africa thumped India by an innings and six runs in the opening Test to hand top-ranked India their first defeat on home soil in almost two years.
The win at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Nagpur came despite a last-minute fighting century by Sachin Tendulkar on the fourth day, as South Africa went 1-0 up in the two-match series.
Left-arm spinner Paul Harris and fast bowler Dale Steyn took three wickets each to help South Africa record a morale-boosting victory after they broke Sachin Tendulkar's resistance following his 46th Test century.
India were bowled out for 319 as Steyn finished with a match haul of 10 for 108 following South Africa's imposing first innings of 558 for six declared and a career-best seven for 51 in India's first innings.
It was India's third defeat by an innings margin at home, all of those coming against South Africa.
The South Africans now need to just draw the second and final Test beginning in Kolkata on February 14 to reclaim their top ranking from India.
India's lone resistance in the second innings came from Tendulkar, who smashed 13 fours in his 179-ball knock on the way to his 46th Test century.
Tendulkar, who hit two successive centuries during India's 2-0 away Test win against Bangladesh, defied the South African attack for close to four and a half hours before being dismissed in a bizarre fashion.
Tendulkar tried to sweep Harris but the ball bounced off his body, hit the elbow and fell on to the stumps. He watched the ball in disbelief before trudging back to the pavilion.
Harris then dismissed skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for 25 and finished with three for 76 off a marathon 38 overs that included 17 maidens.
When India resumed on 66-2 after being forced to follow-on, Tendulkar put on 72 for the third wicket with Murali Vijay before Harris struck.
Both Vijay and Tendulkar fell attempting to sweep at Harris, who frustrated the batsmen by bowling accurately to a leg-side field in a successful attempt to dry up runs.
South Africa first innings
558-6 declared (H Amla 253 n.o.,
J Kallis 173, AB de Villiers 53)
India first innings 233
(V. Sehwag 109, S. Badrinath 56, D.
India second innings
G Gambhir b Morkel 1
V Sehwag c Smith b Steyn 16
M Vijay c Morkel b Harris 32
S Tendulkar b Harris 100
S Badrinath c Boucher b Parnell 6
M Dhoni c de Villiers b Harris 25
W Saha lbw b Steyn 36
H Singh lbw b Parnell 39
Z Khan c Harris b Kallis 33
A Mishra b Steyn 0
I Sharma not out 0
Total: (all out; 107.1 overs) 319
Fall of wickets: 1-1 2-24 3-96 4-122 5-192 6-209 7-259 8-318 9-318.
Bowling: Steyn 18.1-1-57-3, Morkel 21-6-65-1 (nb 1, w-6), Parnell 13-2-58-2, Harris 38-17-76-3, Kallis 12-3-19-1, Duminy 5-0-21-0 (nb-1).
Vijay top-edged to Morne Morkel at fine leg while Tendulkar was bowled, the ball coming off his pad and arm.
Left-arm medium-pacer Wayne Parnell had Subramaniam Badrinath (6) edge behind before Tendulkar went.
Tendulkar, who was dropped by Jacques Kallis at slip on 45, batted superbly before he succumbed to Harris.
Harris then sent back skipper Dhoni, the last recognised batsman, who was caught by AB de Villiers at silly point.
The last four wickets put on 110 runs before Steyn fired out Wriddhiman Saha (36) and Amit Mishra (0) to give Dhoni his first Test defeat in his 12-match career as captain.
The last time India lost a Test at home was to South Africa in Ahmedabad in 2008.
Man of the match Hashim Amla hit a double century and Kallis struck 173 to put South Africa in control with Steyn returning his career-best figures to bowl out top-ranked India for 233 in their first innings.
The second and final Test is in Kolkata at the weekend.
South Africa will reclaim the number one ranking if they win the series.