Eddie Jones came under increased scrutiny as England squandered another early lead to lose the series against South Africa and fall to their fifth successive Test defeat.
The Red Rose coach is in the midst of the most difficult period of his two-and-a-half-year tenure after a disastrous Six Nations and now defeats in the first two Tests against the Springboks.
The series is lost, even if England do triumph in next week’s final Test in Cape Town, and Jones will come under fire once again with next year’s World Cup in Japan looming on the horizon.
Jones made two changes to his team in Bloemfontein as New Zealand-born flanker Brad Shields came in for his first England start, replacing former skipper Chris Robshaw who was dropped altogether.
Elsewhere, Joe Launchbury replaced Nick Isiekwe in the second row while Danny Cipriani came off the bench late on to win his first England cap since 2015.
South Africa’s Pieter-Steph du Toit started at flanker in place of Jean-Luc du Preez and Frans Malherbe came in at tight-head prop with Wilco Louw dropping out.
Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira earned his 100th cap for the Springboks and became only the sixth South African in history to achieve the feat.
Captain Owen Farrell spoke beforehand about how England’s players have taken responsibility for their performances with a number of honest conversations having taken place this week.
Discipline and defence were the focus in the England camp after conceding 12 penalties in the first Test and shipping five tries.
This was another game at altitude but England began in impressive fashion and Farrell made a fine ankle tap to bring down Damian de Allende as he threatened to scamper over the line.
George Ford was also prominent with some clever kicking out of hand which gave the Springboks plenty to think about.
Up front, England were no less imposing and Billy Vunipola in particular made his presence felt in the scrum.
The tone having been set, England struck the opening blow in the 10th minute when a fine handling sequence saw Vunipola begin a move which culminated in Jonny May sending Mike Brown over the line for a clinical effort.
Farrell added the extras and it got even better for the Red Rose three minutes later when more delightful passing through midfield before Leicester winger May applied the finishing touch down the right flank.
Farrell could not convert and South Africa gradually warmed to their task, hitting back in the 25th minute with their first try.
The Springboks kept the ball alive effectively and possession was recycled to Duane Vermeulen who skips through a couple more England tackles and over the whitewash.
Handre Pollard, who enjoyed an outstanding game, converted and then booted two penalties to put South Africa 13-12 up, the second coming just before half-time.
South Africa upped the ante after the break as England continued to concede penalties.
In the 50th minute, they were awarded a penalty try and South Africa's replacement props came on and made a big impact to heap further pressure on England.
Shields went close to a try for England but did not ground the ball after some obstinate defending from Franco Mostert.
Cipriani came on for Ford in the final quarter but another penalty by Pollard gave South Africa further breathing space.
England then lost Nathan Hughes to the sin-bin for an infringement at the ruck and the Springboks held on for victory with relative comfort.