Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns survived a second-half onslaught from Black Leopards to claim a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Thohoyandou Stadium on Wednesday evening.
In a game of two halves, Themba Zwane and a Chris Katjukua own goal gave Sundowns a 2-0 lead but Mwape Musonda pulled a goal back in the second half.
Sundowns were knocking the ball around confidently and dominating possession in the early exchanges, while Leopards were trying to soak up the pressure and spring on the counter-attack wherever possible.
Thapelo Morena was crowded out in the box but managed to lay the ball off for Zwane, whose side-footed effort towards the left-hand corner brought a fine save out of Jonas Mendes in the Leopards goal.
In the 20th minute, Lidoda Duvha's new signing Andriamirado Dax Andrianamarinana tested Denis Onyango with a long-range effort but in the end it was a rather routine save.
The Brazilians took the lead in the 25th minute. Hlompho Kekana played a long diagonal out to the left-hand side for Jose Ali Meza, who skipped past his marker and got to the byline before squaring the ball in to the box for Zwane to tap home expertly.
Leopards were dealt a massive blow when they conceded on the stroke of half-time. Ali Meza pounced on a loose ball and whipped a tempting ball in to the box with Katjiukua putting the ball in to his own net while attempting to intercept the cross.
Shortly after the interval, Zwane tested Mendes at his near post after a flowing move from the visitors. In the 55th minute, Gaston Sirino curled narrowly over the bar from a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Soon after, Lyle Lakay brought another fine save out of Mendes from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the box after receiving Morena's cross at the back post.
But Leopards pulled a goal back on the hour mark slightly against the run of play when Tshwarelo Bereng found Musonda in the box, who curled a sublime finish in to the left-hand corner for his second goal in as many games.
That goal got the Thohoyandou faithful off their seats and galvanised the players, who had the momentum in their favour and were putting the defending champions on the back foot. Musonda volleyed just wide in the 65th minute after being found in the area.
Lebohang Maboe then missed a sitter with 15 minutes to go when Sirino squared the ball in to his path in the box and he had only the keeper to beat but somehow put the ball wide of the right-hand post.
Sirino then blazed narrowly over with a volley soon afterwards and Pitso Mosimane would have been disappointed that his side had not managed to put the game to bed with those two opportunities but relieved that they held on in the end for the crucial three points.