Leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and fellow contenders Kaizer Chiefs and Wits University all won on Wednesday as a thrilling South African Premiership title run-in continued.
An early headed goal by Mozambican Elias “Domingues” Pelembe gave Sundowns a tense 1-0 home win over depleted Mpumalanga Black Aces in wet Pretoria.
George Lebese scored his third goal for defending champions Chiefs within five days and George Maluleka added a second to seal a 2-0 triumph at lowly Polokwane City.
Captain Sibusiso Vilakazi was the toast of Wits with his late stoppage-time goal snatching a 2-1 home victory over Moroka Swallows in Johannesburg.
Sundowns have 58 points with three fixtures left, Chiefs 55 with four matches to play and Wits 50 with five matches remaining.
The facts that Sundowns and Chiefs are level on goal difference and that Wits host Chiefs on April 23 adds to the intrigue as another exciting Premiership climax unfolds.
Sundowns have won the richest African national football league – the winners collect 10 million rand ($A1.011 million) – a record five times and Chiefs on three occasions.
Unfashionable Wits, whose rudimentary stadium accommodates just 5000 spectators, are chasing a first title under Gavin Hunt, who coached SuperSport United to three consecutive Premiership successes.
Recalled Pelembe nodded past Aces goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane, who retired with an ankle injury soon after, and replacement Bafana Nhlapo made a string of fine saves.
Sundowns created most of the chances against opponents lacking five first-choice players on a sodden Loftus Versfeld pitch they share with Super 15 rugby outfit Northern Bulls.
“This is not a time for pretty football,” stressed Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, “it is all about collecting three points.
“That explains why we played negatively during the final minutes – it was a match we had to win and I feared that chasing a second goal might let Aces in.
“The fact that Aces’ goalkeeper was the man of the match tells a story. Mabokgwane was brilliant and Nhlapo unbelievable.”
Lebese finished a cross from Zimbabwean Kingston Nkhatha on 10 minutes and a Maluleka shot that looped over ex-Botswana goalkeeper Modiri Marumo gave Chiefs maximum points.
Complicating Chiefs’ title run-in are home and away fixtures against Ivory Coast club ASEC Mimosas on April 20 and 27 in a CAF Confederation Cup play-off.
However, English coach Stuart Baxter is clear about his priorities as the Soweto club also chase a second successive South African FA Cup title.
“Defending the league title comes first,” he said, “and we may give some fringe players a chance in the return game against ASEC.”