Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns substitute Phakamani Mahlambi made an immediate impact by scoring the goal that sealed the South African Premiership title in a 1-0 win at Free State Stars on Saturday.
The tall striker had been on the field in central town Bethlehem for only five minutes in place of injured Uruguayan Gaston Sirino when he netted the winning goal late in the first half.
Mahlambi returned to South Africa last year after failing to make the grade with record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said at the time of the signing that Mahlambi had "a lot to learn", but his clinical finish against Free State showed he has improved considerably.
The goal not only earned Sundowns a record-extending ninth Absa Premiership title, it also condemned Stars to relegation and financial trouble.
While Sundowns pocketed a R10 million prize, Stars contemplated life with a R300 000 monthly grant, a fifth of what Premiership clubs receive.
Success for Sundowns was perfectly timed as it eased the pain of being eliminated by Moroccan outfit Wydad Casablanca from the CAF Champions League semi-finals last weekend.
Mosimane became the first coach to win the Absa Premiership four times with the same club, overtaking Gavin Hunt, who led SuperSport United to three league titles.
Although football is an overwhelming black sport in South Africa, Mosimane is the only coach from the majority racial group in the country to win the Premiership.
Weariness was etched on his face as the final whistle sounded and Sundowns had secured the three points that ensured they remained first, two points above Orlando Pirates.
"This is the greatest of my Premiership titles," said the 54-year-old former national team striker, who often rises at 04:00 to analyse videos of opponents.
"It is also the most emotional. I wish to thank all those who helped me succeed as no man is an island.
"Coming to Bethlehem and facing a team fighting for top-flight survival meant it was a tough match, but we managed it well with the experience gained from playing in Africa helping.
"Some South Africans believe coaching Sundowns is easy because we have a generous owner, a professional set-up, great support staff and some of the best footballers in the country.
"What they forget is that I and my staff have had to constantly rebuild the team when our stars moved abroad. We have to reinvent ourselves regularly."
Apart from his Premiership titles, Mosimane became the first South African to coach a CAF Champions League-winning team when Sundowns beat Zamalek of Egypt in the 2016 final.
They reached the quarter-finals of the elite African club competition the following year and the semi-finals this season.
Pirates outplayed Polokwane City 3-0 in Soweto with South African Player of the Season candidate Thembinkosi Lorch scoring twice and Vincent Pule once before half-time.
Finishing second for the second successive season secures Pirates a place in the 2019/20 Champions League with Sundowns.
Bidvest Wits came third, five points adrift of Sundowns, thanks to a 1-0 win away to Golden Arrows in Durban with Malawian Gabadinho Mhango scoring the only goal.
Johannesburg-based Wits will go into the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League.
Long-time bottom club Maritzburg United drew 1-1 at Baroka to finish second last and now face playoffs with two second-division sides for one Absa Premiership place next season.
South African Premiership leading goalscorers after the 2018/19 season:
16: Musonda (Black Leopards)
9: Lorch (Orlando Pirates), Mabaso (Bloemfontein Celtic), Motupa (Bidvest Wits)
8: Anas (Polokwane City), Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Mvala (Highlands Park), Pule (Pirates)
7: Macuphu (SuperSport Utd), Mthembu (Cape Town City), Shalulile (Highlands Park)
Complete list of South African Premiership champions after Mamelodi Sundowns won the 2018/19 edition:
1997: Manning Rangers
1998: Mamelodi Sundowns
1999: Mamelodi Sundowns
2000: Mamelodi Sundowns
2001: Orlando Pirates
2003: Orlando Pirates
2004: Kaizer Chiefs
2005: Kaizer Chiefs
2006: Mamelodi Sundowns
2007: Mamelodi Sundowns
2008: SuperSport Utd
2009: SuperSport Utd
2010: SuperSport Utd
2011: Orlando Pirates
2012: Orlando Pirates
2013: Kaizer Chiefs
2014: Mamelodi Sundowns
2015: Kaizer Chiefs
2016: Mamelodi Sundowns
2017: Bidvest Wits
2018: Mamelodi Sundowns
2019: Mamelodi Sundowns
Factfile for 2018/19 Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns:
Official name: Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club
Colours: yellow shirts, blue shorts, white socks
Home grounds: Lucas 'Masterpieces' Moripe Stadium (capacity: 28 000), Atteridgeville; Loftus Versfeld (52 000), Pretoria
Owner: Patrice Motsepe
Coach: Pitso Mosimane
Captain: Hlompho Kekana
Standard team: Denis Onyango (UGA); Anele Ngcongca, Ricardo Nascimento (BRA), Mosa Lebusa, Tebogo Langerman; Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda; Thapelo Morena, Gaston Sirino (URU), Themba Zwane; Lebohang Maboe
Premiership record: 9 titles (1998, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
CHAMPIONS!!!??????????????????— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) May 11, 2019
The Brazilians have gone and done it after a tantalizing season of football WE ARE THE #BACK2BACK ABSA PREMIERSHIP CHAMPIONS!!!#Sundowns #AbsaPrem #Cham9ions #Back2Back #9TimePSLChamps pic.twitter.com/BLmDwhdCT4