A Luvuyo Memela second half strike helped AmaZulu return to winning ways in the Premier Soccer League against TS Galaxy at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday.
Former Orlando Pirates star Memela was the deciding factor after grabbing the only goal of the match in the 56th minute.
The victory was Usuthu's second in the league jumping up from ninth position on the table to sixth as Galaxy remained rooted at the bottom of the log and winless after seven league games.
It was a difficult evening for the hosts who played the final 20 minutes of the match a man short following a red card to centre-back Pogiso Sanoka.
AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy started a familiar side which had the likes of goalkeeper Veli Mothwa, Siyethemba Sithebe, Xola Mlambo, Augustine Mulenga and Tercious Malepe in.
It was TS Galaxy new coach Sead Ramovic’s first game in charge of the Mpumalanga side and he started his tenure by benching striker Augustine Kwem.
The visitors almost went ahead 12 minutes into the contest when Mulenga was denied by the upright post.
But Galaxy tried to respond to the threat four minutes later with Sinethemba Mngomezulu failing to direct Ebrahim Seedat’s sublime cross on target.
Usuthu’s best chance of the match came on the half-hour mark when Siphelele Mthembu beat TS Galaxy goalkeeper Vasilije Kolak point-blank off a Sithebe cross but Sanoka rushed to head the ball to safety right on the goal line.
McCarthy could be seen burying his head in his hands in disappointment at the lost chance.
It was not surprising to see Mthembu being pulled out at half-time for Bongi Ntuli.
The stalemate was broken when Malepe set up Memela who gave Kolak no chance with a well-taken shot that went through the far post.
TS Galaxy tried to hit back of the net just after the hour mark but Usuthu captain Makhehlene Makhaula cleared Mngomezulu’s headed effort.
But things only got worse for the hosts when defender Sanoka was shown a red card with 20 minutes to go following a lunge on Makhaula, having earlier been cautioned for a poor tackle on Memela.
Memela could have doubled Usuthu’s advantage and grab a brace on 79 minutes but was a bit late to meet a long pass from Sithebe.
Usuthu seemed to be enjoying TS Galaxy’s numerical disadvantage as Ntuli narrowly missed the target with a volley nine minutes before time.
A final opportunity for the Rockets to grab a stoppage time equaliser came but Mxolisi Macuphu skied his effort from close range.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Royal AM’s four-match winning streak was halted by Marumo Gallants following a 2-2 draw at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Substitute Sedwyn George’s strike deep into injury-time rescued Royal AM from the jaws of defeat in a match that witnessed four second half goals.
George was introduced right on 90 minutes and five minutes later he was on hand to deny Gallants their first win of the season.
Bahlabane Ba Ntwa remain winless and stuck on second-from-bottom with three points from six games following a disappointing afternoon where they took the lead twice but ended up settling for a point.
After a goalless first half, Ndabayithethwa thrust Gallants ahead three minutes after the restart but the visitors hit back through Victor Letsoalo who scored from the penalty spot to take his season tally to five league goals.
Substitute Letsie Koapeng helped the hosts reclaim the lead on 73 minutes before George’s heartbreaker which saw Riyal AM climb one rung to third spot on the table.
Royal AM will now have a free weekend before visiting Orlando Pirates on October 28, while Gallants prepare to travel to AS Vita for Friday’s Caf Confederation Cup assignment.