Maritzburg wasted no time stamping their authority as they went in front through Lebohang Maboe as early as the first minute after good build-up play.
The visitors were expectantly rattled and nearly conceded a second after Motsie Matima broke from a corner and cracked the top of the crossbar.
Celtic were then denied expertly by Richard Ofori, who pulled off a stunning block that went out for a corner moments later.
The resultant set-piece saw Ronald Pfumbadzai head against the top of the crossbar with half-time fast approaching.
At the start of the second half, Maritzburg wasted no time exerting their opening stanza superiority and went immediately on the front foot for the two-goal cushion.
They were, however, pinned back by the Free Staters, who found the equaliser 14 minutes from time through Jacky Motshegwa.
It was short-lived, though, with the home side going in front once more off the boot of Andrea Fileccia after a delightful through ball from Maboe two minutes later.