The sinking remnant of a surface plate crosses and interacts with multiple boundaries in Earth's interior. Here, we specifically investigate the prominent dynamic interaction of the sinking plate portion with the upper-mantle transition zone and its corresponding surface elevation signal. We unravel, for the first time, that the collision of the sinking slab with the transition zone induces a sudden, dramatic downward tilt of the upper plate towards the subduction trench. Unraveling this crucial interaction was only possible thanks to state-of-the-art numerical modelling and post-processing. The new model that is introduced here to study the dynamically self-consistent temporal evolution of subduction features accurate subduction-zone topography, robust single-sided plate sinking, stronger plates close to laboratory values, an upper-mantle phase transition, and simple continents at a free surface. To distinguish the impact of the new physical model features, three different setups are used: the simplest model setup includes a basic high-viscosity lower mantle, the second adds a 660-km phase transition, and the third includes, additionally, a continental upper plate. Common to all models is the clear topographic signal upon slab-transition-zone interaction: the upper plate tilts abruptly towards the subduction trench by about 0.05° and over around 10 Ma. This dramatic increase in upper-plate tilt can be related to the slab-induced excitation of the high-viscosity lower mantle, which introduces a wider flow pattern. A large change in horizontal extent of inundation of up to 900 km is observed as a direct consequence of the upper-plate tilting. Such an abrupt variation in surface topography and inundation extent should be clearly visible in temporal records of large-scale surface elevation and might explain continental tilting as observed in Australia since the Eocene and North America during the Phanerozoic.