Sundowns fielded a rather second-string team, making nine changes from their frustrating goalless draw at home to Highlands Park in midweek.
City stuck with their tried and tested, eager to reach the final of the competition for the second successive campaign after losing out to SuperSport United last time out.
City made a relatively slow start but gradually grew stronger as the half progressed, with Matthew Rusike firing the game’s first shot on goal which Kennedy Mweene dealt with well in the end.
The Brazilians were not bound to be intimidated with the home support and Toni Silva was at the end of their first strike on target minutes later.
Great work down the left from Jose Meza, who dribbled past two defenders before whipping in a low cross that landed to Siphelele Mkhulise who drew a finger-tip save from Peter Leeuwenburgh.
The prudent attacking quality Downs are fondly known for nearly came to fruition when Anthony Laffor ran on to a long ball before comfortably beating Leeuwenburgh. The goal however was ruled out for offside as it appeared that the Liberian raced ahead of the last opposition defender.
It was the turn of the Cape Town oufti with the chance to go in front, but Taariq Fielies failed to direct his header on target after rising well on 33 minutes, which proved to be the final chance in the opening stanza.
Two minutes in the second half, the Citizens missed an inviting opportunity to steer in front after Craig Martin’s attempted back-heel sailed wide of goal after tenacious work from Thabo Nodada.
Martin player was in the thick again seconds later, but on this occasion his shot from loose ball sailed wide with the help of Mweene who managed to tip it away.
Downs managed to soak up and the pressure, and nearly took the lead against the run of play but despite the good effort from Mkhulise, the crossbar denied him the chance to a first professional goal.
After a dry spell marred with loss possession and misplaced passes, the Citizens broke the bucket when Fielies shot in the roof of the net after being laid through by Kwanda Mngonyama on 75 minutes.
With eight minutes to full-time, City pressed for an insurance goal after Ayanda Patosi forced Mweene to tip over the top following a cross-field delivery from Nodada.
On the other hand, the visitors edged closer to drawing level and Silva was a tad unfortunate not to get on the end of an inside-cross from the left by debutant Mosa Lebusa on 88 minutes.
In added time, Anele Ngcongca struck the top of the crossbar with a header from a free-kick, as City take the driving seat ahead of the second-leg next week Sunday.