Free State Stars claimed all three points in a 1-0 victory over Highlands Park at Goble Park on Saturday night.
Tshepho Tema scored the only goal of the game on a wet night of Premiership action to hand the Lions of the North their first defeat of the 2018/19 season.
The away side had started well, with Lindokuhle Mbatha trying his luck with a shot that flew off target, before Linda Bhengu fired just over at the other end as Sabelo Nyembe had a shot at goal that held up in the water.
Ea La Koto were probing well down the flanks, with Yusuf Jappie’s deliveries from the right-hand side causing problems for the Highlands defence.
Both sides continued to get forward and after Bhengu was off target, Denzil Haoseb was unable to direct a 23rd minute header goalwards.
Nyiko Mobbie and Goodman Dlamini both fired in good efforts that were inches away from breaking the deadlock, while Eleazar Rodgers was unlucky not to hand Stars the lead at the end of the first half.
The tall striker controlled a fierce drive from Dlamini but the ball just squirmed away as he looked to toe-poke past the onrushing Tapuwa Kapini, who kept out the shot with his outstretched foot.
Stars were on the attack at the start of the second period as a flick on from Rodgers from a Mobbie ball over the top found Bhengu, but he was forced away from goal to win an early corner.
The set-piece was whipped in by Jappie, but too long for Rodgers at the back post.
The home side then had to defend deep for a period as the Lions of the North played the ball around well ahead of a good break forward from Jappie that saw him just overrun the ball en route to goal.
A 55th minute free-kick, swung in by Mbatha, was headed backward and onto the Stars upright with Badra Ali Sangare beaten, and it proved to be a costly miss for Highlands Park, as Tema fired Stars ahead.
A deep free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Rodgers where Bhengu tried to get his head on the ball, but it rolled to Tema who slotted in from a central position inside the small box.
Half chances kept coming for both sides, with Mbatha wide on 69 minutes after racing towards goal, while Mothobi Mvala powered a late strike just past the left hand upright.
Mobbie was dismissed on 75 minutes for what appeared to be an accidental stamp on Mbatha as the two tussles for the ball.
But Stars were able to see out the game, with Sangare the late hero with a brilliant save from close range from substitute Peter Shalulile.