Oupa Manyisa gave Bafana Bafana the lead at the start of the second half with a low strike from inside the area, but a towering header by Genk defender Kara Mbodji just after the hour mark earned Senegal a draw. The result leaves Senegal top of Group C with four points from two matches, one point clear of both Algeria and Ghana, who met earlier in the day with the Black Stars winning 1-0.
South Africa, meanwhile, are bottom with just one point to their name and must beat Ghana in their last match next Tuesday to stay in the competition. Bafana Bafana threw away a lead in a 3-1 defeat to Algeria in their opening game and this latest inability to see out a result seriously compromises their chances of progressing.
Papa Diop's free-kick at the other end in the 24th minute was fired straight at South Africa goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane, who was picked ahead of the dropped Darren Keet. And on the stroke of half-time, Senegal striker Mame Biram Diouf headed wide off a corner from inside the box.
The opener arrived within two minutes of the restart, with Manyisa finishing low across Coundoul and into the net from a right-wing cross. Senegal were denied an equaliser when Sadio Mane converted from close range after Moussa Sow had headed the ball back across goal, with the offside flag coming to South Africa's rescue.
However, the Lions of Teranga were level on the hour mark as Mbodji rose to head home a Diop free-kick at the back post. The game opened up after that with chances at both ends of the pitch, as Sow scuffed his shot from inside the box 20 minutes from time before South Africa skipper Dean Furman fired off target from range.
And moments later, Senegal goalscorer Mbodji did well to stop the ever-dangerous Tokelo Rantie on the edge of the box as the game swung from end to end. Substitute Dame Ndoye then forced the South Africa goalkeeper to make a fine save in the 82nd minute when he flew to his right to turn a goal-bound effort from distance around the post as the game ended all square.