Free State were able to hold and secure a valuable point against Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium on Wednesday night despite being reduced to 10 men for much of the second half.
Sibusiso Hlubi’s early strike was cancelled out by Peter Shalulile’s goal shortly before the break, before Stars had to try and hold on for the last 25 minutes after Sifiso Mbhele received his marching orders.
Despite the setback, they managed to salvage a draw and lift themselves up to 13th place in the table on 25 points, pushing Chippa United into the relegation playoff spot.
Stars got off to the perfect start in Tembisa, with Hlubi firing them into the lead in only the ninth minute after getting onto the end of a superb long throw-in from Rooi Mahamutsa and firing past Highlands keeper Marlon Heugh.
The home side were able to find a way back into the match, however, and managed to equalise six minutes before the break following a scramble in the box, with Namibian forward Shalulile eventually bundling the ball into the net to make it 1-1.
Stars would have been hopeful of chasing down all three points in the second half, but their efforts were dealt a huge blow in the 65th minute when defender Sifiso Mbhele was sent off for a second bookable offence.
The job was always going to be a difficult one from there, but the remaining 10 men continued to show their intent, ultimately holding on for a point that gives them a little bit of breathing space of the tail-end of the table.
Stars return to action next Wednesday when they take on relegation-threatened Baroka FC at Goble Park in a match Nikola Kavazović and his men will be determined to collect all three points from.