South Africa hadn't beaten England in a World Cup match for over 20 years, but they ended that record on Monday morning as they won by three wickets.
England set a score of 235 with Tammy Beaumont and Amy Jones both reaching half-centuries with 62 and 53 respectively.
But it wasn't enough to see off a South Africa side who have enjoyed three straight wins to start their World Cup campaign.
England will be regretting missing a handful of crucial opportunities, with a number of fielding errors allowing South Africa's Laura Wolvaardt three lifelines on her way to a match-winning 77.
In the final three overs, South Africa were left needing 16. Anya Shrubsole claimed the wicket of Marizanne Kapp to give England hope of upsetting any momentum, but number nine Shabnim Ismail hit a four with her first ball and South Africa remained calm as they secured victory with four balls to spare.
With three disappointing losses to start their World Cup campaign, England are now left seventh in the table - ahead of only Pakistan - and will need to rely on other results going their way if they are to qualify for the semi-finals.
The result marked the latest disappointment in what has been a torrid World Cup defence from England, who won the 2017 tournament in London.
England captain Heather Knight was left "gutted" after the match, but refused to critique her side's effort.
"We're pretty gutted by the situation," said Knight.
"Its not out of lack of effort. I would have liked 15 or 20 more, they bowled pretty well at the death though Amy and Tammy batted brilliantly.
"We've got no other option we've obviously got to win that game (against India) and win that well. It's not through lack of effort, things just haven't gone our way."
England are next in action on Wednesday, March 16, when they line up against India in a must-win clash.
As for South Africa, following wins over Bangladesh, Pakistan and now England, their next challenge comes against hosts New Zealand on Thursday.