Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns opened up a six-point gap at the top of the Absa Premiership table after running out narrow 1-0 victors against Golden Arrows at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday evening.
The hosts almost got off to the perfect start when Leandro Sirino was teed up inside the box on the left after Arrows failed to clear a second-minute free-kick, but the Uruguayan's shot came back off the right post.
Sundowns threatened again four minutes later as Sibusiso Vilakazi played a one-two with Percy Tau and blazed over the crossbar on the half-volley just outside the area.
Clinton Larsen's men won a free-kick in a promising position on the left moments later, but Danny Venter's attempt landed on the roof of the net as he looked to catch Denis Onyango off his line.
The Brazilians would make the breakthrough from the penalty spot on 25 minutes after Vilakazi sold Zolani Nkombela with a sharp turn from Hlompho Kekana's threaded pass and was brought down. Ricardo Nascimento sent Mbaeva the wrong way from 12 yards out to open the scoring.
Kekana wasn't far away from doubling their lead seven minutes later with a dipping strike from distance that bounced just wide of the left post, while Jabulani Shongwe blasted a long-range shot well over the bar within seconds at the other end.
Vilakazi dragged an effort wide of the far post from an angle on the right after latching onto Sirino's pass inside the box on 38 minutes, and Tau fired straight at Mbaeva from a similar position in the final minute of the half.
Nkombela looked to make amends for his earlier mistake when he pounced on a loose ball outside the box four minutes after the restart, but the defender failed to keep his shot down.
Themba Zwane fired across the face of goal from inside the box on the right on 55 minutes after being played in by Vilakazi, and Tau could only hit the side-netting from seven yards out two minutes later after running onto Kekana's pass.
Mbaeva had to be alert to keep out Zwane's left-footed shot from close range in the 62nd minute, but Downs became more frantic in their attacks as the half wore on and Arrows held firm at the back.
Tau went close in the 82nd minute with a free-kick from 25 yards out that just cleared the goal eight minutes from time, and the forward had the ball in the back of the net on 86 minutes after Mbaeva pulled off two saves in quick succession, but the whistle sounded for handball in the build-up.