After a goalless first half, Bongani Zungu gave the Brazilians the lead, but Ajax levelled and went ahead through Keegan Dolly and a Lebohang Manyama penalty before the Zimbabwean's late strike.
Ajax started with two debutants in the form of Ritus Krjauklis and Bantu Mzwakali, as well as Eleazar Rodgers, who is on loan from Chloorkop, while Khama Billiat was back in Cape Town for the first time since leaving the Urban Warriors during the transfer window.
It was a nervy start to the match for the Sundowns back-four, with Kennedy Mweene forced into a smart save early on after Rodgers latched onto Manyama’s cross.
On nine minutes Rodgers beat the goalkeeper to the ball, but his cross into box was well dealt with by Bryce Moon.
The Brazilians had their first shot at goal shortly afterwards when Dove Wome fired over from 25 yards, before a poor touch by Billiat denied him a shot on target after great work down the left by Punch Masenamela, who was making his first start after a six-month injury lay-off.
Ajax had a great chance midway through the first half when a deflected cross found its to an unmarked Ernesto. However, rather than hitting it first time he tried to bring it down, allowing the defence to close him down.
Downs had their first shot on target in the 36th minute when Malajila played in Billiat, who shot straight at Brendon Peterson, and five minutes later Ajax came closest to breaking the deadlock – Mzwakali’s free-kick hitting the crossbar.
Dolly had another shot in injury-time, but Mweene gathered at the second attempt.
The second half started at a frantic pace and in five minutes we saw two goals and another shot hit the woodwork.
First Zungu broke the deadlock on 52 minutes when Dominic Isaacs’ clearing header fell at his feet; the youngster showing great composure to shoot across Peterson and into the back of the net.
But just five minutes later Ajax were level thanks to some Dolly magic and poor judgement from Mweene. Sumaila gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of the box and Dolly, rather than crossing, smashed a shot from an audacious angle which beat the keeper at his near-post.
Billiat then hit the post a minute later from 10 yards out from Bryce Moon’s pinpoint cross, but it was the hosts to score next, albeit controversially.
Nathan Paulse went down under Alje Schut’s challenge, despite replays showing a clear dive from the striker. Manyama made no mistake with the spot-kick, blasting it straight down the middle.
Substitute Katlego Mashego made an immediate impact after coming on – first forcing Peterson into a save from a free-kick and then seeing the keeper parry his snapshot from distance.
From the resulting corner though, Sundowns did equalise. Malajila’s initial header hit the crossbar and Zungu’s follow-up effort was brilliantly saved, but the Zimbabwean striker got up to sweep home the rebound.
Billiat almost gave his new side the lead moments later when some great skill saw him beat a defender before curling a shot which rattled the crossbar, while at the other end Manyama fired well wide when in a good position.
In the frantic dying minutes, Hlompo Kekana flashed a free-kick inches wide, Malajila failed to connect with Richard Henyekane’s cross-cum-shot, and Manyama had an effort tipped wide but, despite their best efforts, this exciting game would not have a winner.