Mamelodi Sundowns edged PSL rivals Orlando Pirates 1-0 at Loftus Versfeld in their first clash of 2021 on Saturday to go three points clear at the top of the table.
Brian Onyango scored the only goal of the game with a header on 35 minutes to secure an important three points for the league leaders.
Both sides looked to attack at pace and unsettle their opponents early on with challenges coming in thick and fast.
AS IT HAPPENED | Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Orlando Pirates
Sundowns created the first chance of the tie with a shot that Lebohang Maboe powered over from the edge of the box after being set up by Peter Shalulile.
A 10th minute Rivaldo Coetzee free-kick was well headed clear by Innocent Maela before Ricardo Nascimento then so nearly gave Sundowns the lead from the resultant corner. Fortune Makeringe though was on hand to stick out a leg to deflect the goal-bound effort wide of the target.
Shalulile was ruled offside as he headed home on 13 minute, as he latched on to a superb ball into the box from Mothobi Mvala.
Thembinkosi Lorch was played in on goal by a Themba Zwane header but he could only drag his half-volley well wide of the Sundowns goal.
Denis Onyango had to be alert to deny Zwane from a powerful drive on 16 minutes, after he was set up with a neat flick from Lorch.
Pule flashed a half-chance over the Downs goal as Maboe looked to catch out Wayne Sandliands with an effort from a long way out that didn't trouble the Brazilians' shotstopper.
Brian Onyango then did expertly well to stop Bucs from opening the scoring as he smashed clear a pass from Deon Hotto, with Terrence Dzvukamanja looking to pounce inside the Sundowns penalty area.
Onyango then popped up at the other end to break the deadlock with a deft header from close range after the ball bounced off Nascimento from a deep Coetzee set-piece.
There was no let up in attack from either side leading into half-time as Pirates enjoyed a brief dominant spell as they went in search of an equaliser after the break.
Ben Motshwari fired over on 51 minutes as Lorch saw his 54th minute effort superbly kept out by Onyango with a strong diving punch low to his right.
Makaringe couldn't get any power to his shot on the turn soon after, while at the other end, Ntsikelelo Nyuaza made a goalline clearance to deny Maboe from slotting home a Thapelo Morena pass.
A Hotto shot was deflected wide by a teammate in Makaringe as Pirates continued to look for a leveler.
Second-half Sundowns substitute Kermit Erasmus forced a strong save from Sandilands with 66 minutes on the clock as Denis Onyango kept his side in the lead with a strong save from a Bucs substitute Gabadinho Mhango.
Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele really should have scored on his domestic debut shortly after being introduced but failed to control a super ball into the box with 10 minutes of the match remaining.
Lorch couldn't keep his late free-kick on target as time began to run out for the away side.
Erasmus then hit the left-hand upright as a second goal proved illusive for Sundowns, with Morena guilty of wasting his chance as he fired into the side netting on 86 minutes before Sandilands denied Erasmus on 87 minutes for the last real chance of this tie.
Sundowns ended the afternoon, three points clear at the top of the league standings, with Pirates down in fifth, some eight points adrift.