South Africa (19) 31
Try M Steyn Con: M Steyn Pens: M Steyn 8
New Zealand (13) 19
Try Ross Con: Donald Pens: Donald 3, McAlister
Steyn surpassed Andrew Mehrtens' previous individual record of 29 points
A superb individual display from Morne Steyn put South Africa on top of the 2009 Tri-Nations following a bruising victory over New Zealand in Durban.
The fly-half set a new individual Tri-Nations record with all 31 points via a try, conversion and eight penalties.
The All Blacks took an early 10-3 lead when lock Isaac Ross finished off a sweeping length-of-the-field move.
But Steyn's 38th-minute try regained the lead the Boks never relinquished as four further penalties secured the win.
It was a monumental display from the Bulls star, who came into the starting XV as a replacement for Ruan Pienaar, who twisted his ankle in the 28-19 win over New Zealand in Bloemfontein last weekend.
A 74th-minute penalty - his ninth successful kick from 10 attempts - saw Steyn surpass former All Black Andrew Mehrtens' previous Tri-Nations record of 29 against Australia in Auckland in 1999.
A convincing victory was the perfect way for captain John Smit to celebrate leading South Africa for a world record 60th time, surpassing Australian legend George Gregan and England's Will Carling.
The World Cup-winning prop received a standing ovation from his home crowd at Kings Park when he was replaced inside the final three minutes.
Isaac Ross finished off a fine sweeping move on 12 minutes
Steyn struck his first penalty inside five minutes when Mils Muliaina - who became the fourth most capped All Black in history alongside Tana Umaga - was penalised for not releasing after collecting a high kick outside his 22m line.
But Stephen Donald levelled the scores a minute later before the All Blacks took the lead with a wonderful, sweeping move which began inside their own half and finished on the wing by Ross.
Powerful bursts from captain Richie McCaw and Muliaina allowed Jerome Kaino to off-load to second row Ross, positioned perfectly on the wing, to slide over from five metres.
Donald added the extras with a superb touchline conversion, although two Steyn penalties reduced the arrears to a single point on 18 minutes.
A cynical high tackle from JP Pietersen denied Cowan a potential try-scoring opportunity following a swift break on 28 minutes, with the winger earning 10 minutes in the sin-bin from Welsh referee Nigel Owens for his misdemeanour.
The resulting penalty saw Donald extend the lead to four points, but once again Steyn reduced the arrears on the half-hour when New Zealand were caught offside at a ruck.
Ross joined Pietersen in the sin-bin for blatant offside at a ruck and the Springboks made their extra forward count two minutes before half time.
Relentless pressure from a South Africa scrum five metres from New Zealand's tryline saw Fourie du Preez's inside pass find Steyn, who skipped inside Cowan to touch down for his first international try.
The Blue Bull added the extra two points and a Springbok counter-attack in the final seconds of the half forced Ma'a Nonu to handle the ball from an offside position, allowing Steyn to give South Africa a nine-point cushion at the interval.
The fly-half saw a drop-goal attempt come back off the upright on the resumption before South Africa were again reduced to 14 men.
Lock Bakkies Botha ended a move which should have finished with an All Blacks try with an illegal tackle on Cowan from an offisde position, becoming the third player to see yellow.
Donald reduced the deficit to 22-16 after 50 minutes from the resulting penalty, but Steyn restored South Africa's nine-point advantage with three points from a New Zealand indiscretion at the breakdown.
Luke McAlister, on as a replacement for Donald, made an immediate impression with a 50m penalty just after the hour to again bring the All Blacks to within a converted try.
But incessant South Africa pressure, with Heinrich Brussow at the breakdown, allowed the Springboks to dictate the tempo of the match with the tourists looking increasingly ragged.
Steyn maintained his successful kicking record, slotting over his eighth and ninth of the match, the latter seeing him surpass Mehrtens' 10-year record.
The 25-year-old might have landed a perfect 10 but pushed a last-minute penalty wide of the right-hand upright.
South Africa play their final home game of the series against Australia in Cape Town next Saturday before a three-week break ahead of their remaining Tests in Australia (two) and New Zealand (one).
The All Blacks now have a three-week break before facing the Wallabies in Sydney on 22 August. They have not lost more than two Tests in a row since 1998, when John Hart's team lost five in a row (three to Australia, two to South Africa).
Under-pressure coach Graham Henry may contemplate the merits of an early recall for Dan Carter after the lack of control exhibited in Durban.
The celebrated fly-half made a successful return for Canterbury on Saturday following an Achilles injury which has kept him out of action for seven months.
Carter scored 14 points as the defending champions were beaten 22-19 by North Harbour in their opening Air New Zealand Cup match.
South Africa: F Steyn; Pietersen, Fourie, De Villiers, Habana; M Steyn, Du Preez; Mtawarira, B du Plessis, Smit (capt), Botha, Matfield, Brussow, Smith, Spies.
Replacements: Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Bekker, Rossouw, Januarie, Jacobs, Olivier.
New Zealand: Muliaina; Rokocoko, Smith, Nonu, Sivivatu; Donald, Cowan; Woodcock, Hore, Franks, Thorn, Ross, Kaino, McCaw, So'oialo.
Replacements: Mealamu, Afoa, Eaton, Read, Weepu, McAlister, Jane
Attendance: 52, 572