Johannesburg - Free State Stars held off a late charge from Bloemfontein Celtic to strengthen their title hopes with a 2-1 win in the Free State derby, in Phuthaditjhaba on Wednesday evening.
The victory saw the hosts climb two places to fourth in the Premiership standings.
Stars dominated for the first half hour, with Dove Wome latching on to a cross from Mpho Makola to score the opener as early as the ninth minute.
Celtic seemed to warm up as the match progressed, with Auguston Leonard (who was later sent off in the 55th minute) and Cecil Oerson both taking long-range efforts that were kept out by Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
The visitors continued to surge forward in the closing stages of the first half, with Phenyo Mongala, Mulomowandau Nathoho and Oersen all wasting chances shortly before the break.
They were pushed back again, however, moments after the restart when Paulos Masehe took advantage of a fumble by Celtic keeper Thabani Stemmer to score the home side's second goal.
With Stars pushing ahead on the attack, in an attempt to put the game beyond reach, Celtic hit back with 20 minutes left when Luyanda Bacela connected with a pass from Oerson to find the back of the net.
Both sides missed late chances but Stars held on for a crucial victory in a tight contest at the top of the table.
While Stars narrowed the gap to only five points on log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, Celtic remained rooted in the bottom half of the table.