Here I will outline successes and challenges for finding spectral line sources in large data cubes that are dominated by noise. This is a 3D challenge as the sources we wish to catalog are spread over several spatial pixels and spectral channels. While 2D searches can be applied, e.g. channel by channel, optimal searches take into account the 3-dimensional nature of the sources. In this overview I will focus on Hi 21-cm spectral line source detection in extragalactic surveys, in particular HIPASS, the Hi Parkes All-Sky Survey and WALLABY, the ASKAP Hi All-Sky Survey. I use the original HIPASS data to highlight the diversity of spectral signatures of galaxies and gaseous clouds, both in emission and absorption. Among others, I report the discovery of a 680 km s−1 wide Hi absorption trough in the megamaser galaxy NGC 5793. Issues such as source confusion and baseline ripples, typically encountered in single-dish Hi surveys, are much reduced in interferometric Hi surveys. Several large Hi emission and absorption surveys are planned for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP): here we focus on WALLABY, the 21-cm survey of the sky (δ < + 30°; z < 0.26) which will take about one year of observing time with ASKAP. Novel phased array feeds (‘radio cameras’) will provide 30 deg2 instantaneous field-of-view. WALLABY is expected to detect more than 500 000 galaxies, unveil their large-scale structures and cosmological parameters, detect their extended, low-surface-brightness disks as well as gas streams and filaments between galaxies. It is a precursor for future Hi surveys with SKA Phase I and II, exploring galaxy formation and evolution. The compilation of highly reliable and complete source catalogs will require sophisticated source-finding algorithms as well as accurate source parametrisation.