India was in serious danger of losing its top spot after South Africa won the Nagpur Test last week and then bad weather on Wednesday allowed only 31 overs of play on the penultimate day of the second Test.
However, Harbhajan Singh took 5-59 and Amit Mishra bagged 3-78 as South Africa was bowled out for 289 despite a fighting 127 not out by Hashim Amla, his second century of the Test.
The series result means that the pre-series status-quo in terms of positions on the table is maintained though India has slipped to 124 ratings points after conceding one ratings point while South Africa has stayed second on 120 ratings points.
This also means that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side will not only retain the mace, which it received after defeating Sri Lanka last year in December, but will also pocket a cheque for US$175,000 which is presented to the side that reaches the 1 April cut-off date in top spot.
Although Bangladesh will host England for a two-Test series while Australia will travel to New Zealand also for a two-Test series before the cut-off date, the situation at the top of the table is such that none of the four teams, no matter what is the outcome of the series, is capable of achieving premier position in time.
It is the first time India has topped the log at the annual cut-off date since the rankings were introduced in June 2003. In 2008, it finished second and it was placed third in 2005 and 2006, fourth in 2007 and sixth in 2004.
While it was all smiles for Dhoni's side, which also ended Australia's seven-year run of finishing on top spot at the annual cut-off date, it was another heart-break for Graeme Smith's side which once again came agonisingly close to achieving the top spot but having to settle with a US$75,000 cheque which is presented to the side that finishes second.
Last year also, it needed a series win to finish at the top of the Test table at the 1 April cut-off date but it lost the home series to Australia by 2-1 and finished nine ratings points behind Ricky Ponting's side.
The presentations of the prize money cheques will be made after the second-placed team in the Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Championship table is decided. The side that finishes on top of the ODI Championship table at the 1 April cut-off date receives a shield and a cheque of US$175,000 while the side that finishes second receives US$75,000.
Australia is already guaranteed a number-one finish as it currently sits on 131 ratings points and even if it loses the fifth ODI against the West Indies and all the five ODIs against New Zealand, it will only drop to 126 ratings points which will be enough to earn it US$175,000.
However, the fight for the second place is tight as only two ratings points separates second-placed India from third-placed South Africa. The two sides will go head to head in the three-match ODI series on 21 February in Jaipur and the side that wins the series will finish second and will earn an additional US$75,000.