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Ireland produced another superb display but ultimately came up just short as they went down 32-26 to South Africa by at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Following on from making history in Cape Town last weekend with their first ever win over the Springboks in South Africa, Joe Schmidt's side put in another heroic shift in the high altitude of Ellis Park but tired late on as the home side ran in four second-half tries to claim a narrow victory.
The result means that the series will be decided in the third and final test in Port Elizabeth next weekend.
After out-half Elton Jantjies had given the Springboks an early lead, Ireland completely dominated the remainder of the first half and looked set to decide the series well in advance of the final test as they took the Springboks pack apart.
Devin Toner crossed for a deserved try five minutes before the break after excellent handling skills from Andrew Trimble had kept the ball alive.
Paddy Jackson converted and added four more penalties in a near-flawless display from the Ulster out-half helped Ireland take a commanding 19-3 lead into the break
But South Africa hit back after the restart and, as expected, the high altitude played a key part as the Irish visibly wilted in the final quarter.
After Jackson had failed to stretch Ireland's advantage with a penalty attempt from distance, Substitute Ruan Combrinck barrelled over to get the Boks back into the game just before the hour mark, with Jantjies adding the conversion to leave nine points between the teams heading into the final quarter.
But Ireland weren't done yet as Jamie Heaslip crashed over after the tourists opted to go for the line rather than the posts after being awarded a penalty deep in the South Africa 22.
Jackson added the extras and it looked like Schmidt's men had done enough to claim another astonishing victory.
But the Springboks dug deep and three tries in 12 minutes saw them overturn the 16-point deficit and send the series to a decider next weekend.
Warren Whitely was the first to cross on 64 minutes. Jantjies was unable to add the conversion but made amends ten minutes from time after Pieter-Steph du Toit had broken through the Irish defence to touch down under the posts.
The Boks were ahead for the first time since early in the first half with just four minutes remaining when Damian de Allende crossed for their fourth try of the second half.
Jantjies again converted and then put the result beyond doubt with another penalty at the death to give South Africa victory by 32-26.
By: Kieran O'Daly