Wayde Jooste scored a late winner from the substitutes bench for Highlands Park as they upset Orlando Pirates 1-0 in the MTN8 on Saturday.
Barely 24 hours after the resignation of coach Milutin Sredojevic, Pirates were in action against Highlands Park at Orlando Stadium.
With trophies something of a rarity at the Houghton-based outfit in recent years, coach Rulani Mokwena, who took over from 'Micho', was hoping his first outing in the MTN8 as head coach would signal a new dawn for the club.
Pirates were still reeling from their 3-0 defeat to SuperSport United in midweek, and as expected Mokwena rung the changes.
Most notably, Justice Chabalala dropped out of the starting XI while Thembinkosi Lorch partnered Augustin Mulenga and Justin Shonga upfront.
However, the attacking mindedness of Mokwena’s side offered little in the early stages, with debutant Thela Ngobeni untested in the Highlands Park goal.
The away side too were a team yet to find their feet this season, and coach Owen Da Gama made a number of changes.
With 10 minutes played, arguably Pirates’ best chance fell to 19-year-old Thabiso Monyane, but he could not direct his shot on target after making a darting run down the right-hand flank.
Pirates bossed possession after that point but worrying for Mokwena was their final ball, which was often wayward.
This almost saw them punished at the 20-minute mark after losing possession in their own half. Lindokuhle Mbatha had acres of space and unleashed a powerful shot, which had Wayne Sandilands scurrying and narrowly missed the target.
The attack was the midfielder's only real contribution on goal before he was stretchered off with an injury towards the half-hour mark.
Meanwhile, when Pirates did find a man in the opposite third, they looked dangerous.
Vincent Pule should have put Pirates ahead when he found himself on the end of a cross, but his header did not match the service and he failed to guide his effort on target.
At the other end, the Lions of the North were missing talisman Rodney Ramagalela, who missed the clash due to personal reasons.
This meant Tendai Ndoro led the line against his former side, but he struggled to really assert himself on the game.
With time running out in the first half, Lorch had arguably the half’s best chance when he was played through on goal by Mulenga. But the Bafana Bafana international’s lob with only the keeper to beat just had a little too much on it and flew over the crossbar.
End to end stuff is what the crowd who made it to Orlando Stadium were enjoying, and Sandilands was proving to be a solid last line of defence for Pirates.
The keeper made a fantastic save to deny substitute Jooste following another quick counter-attack.
The Sea Robbers were living precariously and had it not been for the post, it could have easily been the home side trailing as they headed into the break.
While both sides looked to carry on from where they left off when they took to the field for the second half, Highlands Park clearly felt the effects of the physical nature of the encounter.
This time Limbikani Mzava was stretchered off and needed to be substituted.
Pirates were again dictating the tempo of the game and Shonga produced a moment of brilliance deserving of a goal had it not been for a scintillating save from Ngobeni.
Ngobeni was enjoying a busy second-half and minutes later had to deny Lorch’s thunderous effort from an acute angle.
On the sidelines, Da Gama would wonder where it was going wrong, as for third time on the night a Highlands Park player needed to be withdrawn due to a knock.
This time it was Makhehlene Makhaula who was the unlucky player.
Fatigue was a clear factor as both teams' legs tired and the space and tempo dropped.
Highlands Park still threatened on the counter-attack with Jooste looking lively, but Pirates were standing tall in order to avert the danger.
The last four meetings between the two sides had all ended in draws, and a similar scoreline looked likely, although this time around there had to be a winner.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, it was Jooste who broke the deadlock - the attacker was on hand to put a loose ball in the box beyond Sandilands.
The goal came as sucker-punch to which Pirates had no answer and suffered their third successive loss in all competitions.