Cape Town - Free State Stars staged a late comeback as they rallied from a goal down to record a crucial 2-1 victory over Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Muhsin Ertugral's side claimed the lead in first-half injury time Thanks to Deolin Mekoa, but Ea Lla Koto rallied after the half-time break and drew level through Relebogile Mokhuoane before Sinethemba Jantjie bagged the winning goal in the 81st minute.
The visitors started the match on the front foot and created two good goal-scoring opportunities in the opening five minutes as Makhehlene Makhaula fired over the bar in the first minute before Mokhuoane sliced his shot wide of the mark.
Maritzburg eventually created their first real chance of note in the 17th minute, Keletso Makgalwa forcing a save from Badra Ali Sangare in the Free State Stars goal.
However, it was Ea Lla Koto who enjoyed the better of the chances as they went close to breaking the deadlock through efforts from Tchilimbou, Mokhuoane, Goodman Dlamini and Yussuf Jappie.
The hosts managed to weather the storm, though, and finished the half strongly, creating a number of good chances.
Yazid Atouba and Andrea Fileccia failed to find the mark with their respective shots on goal, while at the opposite end of the pitch, Tchilimbou saw his goal-bound shot kept out by Maritzburg keeper Richard Ofori.
And, just when it seemed the first half would end goalless, Maritzburg broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, Mekoa sending a curling effort into the bottom corner in the sixth minute of injury time.
Stars played with a renewed vigour in the second half and came flying out of the starting blocks as early efforts from Makhaula, Jappie and Nyiko Mobbie failed to find the target.
Makhaula and Jappie were looking dangerous, but they could not capitalise as their later chances went to waste.
However, Mokhuoane finally found his scoring touch in the 74th minute, and it was a memorable finish as he back-heeled the ball over the line from close range.
And, the comeback was completed seven minutes later, as substitute Jantjie fired a half volley into the back of the net from the edge of the area.