Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates stuttered to a 1-0 victory over Ajax Cape Town in their PSL clash at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The hosts started the match with pace and intent and were rewarded with an early goal in the fifth minute.
Benni McCarthy turned supplier with a deft touch in the area, and Thulasizwe Mbuyane was in perfect position to slot home the opener with a good finish.
While Pirates were boosted with the early advantage, they did little to increase their lead and failed to convert chances.
McCarthy had perhaps the best opportunity, but with only Sander Westerveld to beat in the 86th minute, his left-footed shot was hooked across the face of goal.
On the stroke of full time, Buccaneers goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs saved the hosts from throwing away valuable points in the league race with a spectacular save from George Maluleka.
Maluleka was on the end of a cross inside the box and fired a powerful shot, with Josephs reacting quickly to keep the scoreline unchanged.
Earlier, in the first half hour, Pirates dominated possession, buoyed by the early goal.
They were, however, guilty of showboating and began to lose their tight grip on the game.
Khama Billiat had a chance to test Josephs a minute before the break when he found space on the edge of the area.
Billiat was wayward with his shot, though, as it drifted wide while the Pirates defence hardly reacted.
McCarthy, who started the match, worked hard and found good places on the field but was under the watchful eye of fellow veteran Mathew Booth, who made only his second appearance for Ajax.
In the 58th minute, Dane Klate had an acrobatic shot saved from inside the area as Pirates searched in vain for a second goal.
The sides, who battled for the title right up until the final day of the previous season - a war won by Pirates - came into the match level on points, though a little further down the log, and Pirates would have been relieved to bag the win.