Orlando Pirates took another big step towards securing the Absa Premiership title on Wednesday night when they edged their top versus bottom clash 1-0 against Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
Vincent Pule scored the only goal of the game following a slick move after 67 minutes to seal a result that took the Soweto giants three points clear of Mamelodi Sundowns with just two matches to play.
It was a professional performance from the Buccaneers against a home side fighting for their league survival and Coach Milutin Sredojevic praised his players, particularly his defenders, for their effort.
Pirates now have 53 points from 28 games, with Sundowns on 50 points from 27 matches. The superior goal difference of the Soweto side, who are five goals to the better, mean that if they win their remaining two matches against Cape Town City and then Polokwane City, they are very likely to be crowned champions.
The Brazilians are unlikely to enjoy such a heavy goal difference swing, while they also face the possibility of being docked points by the league over a disciplinary matter.
But Sredojevic insisted that he was not too bothered about Sundowns and only concerned by his side.
For Eric Tinkler and Maritzburg United, the loss to Pirates was a big blow to their survival prospects.
They remained rooted to the bottom of the standings with 20 points from 27 matches.
Their only consolation was that their rivals for the drop all failed to win in this round of games, giving them hope for the remaining three rounds.
But their coach conceded that despite a solid showing, some of his players did not play like their lives depended on it.
The KwaZulu-Natal club are four points behind Chippa United in 15th, five behind Baroka in 14th and six adrift of Black Leopards in 13th.
They play the latter two sides in two of their last three matches, starting with Lidoda Duvha in Limpopo on Saturday.
Last night, however, Tinkler conceded they were poor.
By Thahir Asmal