The Buccaneers needed a breath-taking goal from substitute Benni McCarthy in the 75th minute to defeat the 10-man Team of Choice, who had defender Peter Petersen dismissed just past the hour-mark for a second bookable offence.
The victory puts Pirates level with Kaizer Chiefs on 33 points, while Mamelodi Sundowns still lead the way on 36 points.
Bucs started the match strongly and striker Ndumiso Mabena was presented with a great chance just four minutes in, but with only goalkeeper Francis Chansa to beat he blazed his effort over the crossbar.
The hosts dominated the first 20 minutes or so, but the visitors gradually got a foothold in midfield and began to create some opportunities of their own. The best arrived on 34 minutes when a long throw-in from Petersen went straight to Wayne Matle, but from close range the attacker completely missed the ball.
Matle then had a free header from Kurt Lentjies’s 45th-minute free-kick, but he failed to direct his header on target.
Bucs shuffled their pack upfront by introducing Thulasizwe Mbuyane in place of Mabena at the start of the second half, but apart from a glancing header from a corner that produced a straightforward save from Chansa, ‘Juju’ wasn’t able to stamp his authority on the game.
The first of two key moments arrived in the 63rd minute when Petersen deliberately handled the ball and was shown a second yellow card, followed by a red, by referee Zolile Mthetho.
With 15 minutes to play McCarthy took centre stage, peeling away from his marker Byrone Hendricks in the penalty area before meeting a cross with a brilliant overhead-kick that found the back of the net.
Maritzburg thought they had claimed a late equaliser deep into injury time when substitute Prince Olomu stabbed home from close range after Mor Diouf won a knock-down in the penalty area, but it was scratched out for offside – though TV replays suggested the Team of Choice were hard done by.