The People’s Team were by far the more industrious side in the opening half, creating several opportunities on goal, while Celtic hardly had a sniff on their opponent’s goal.
Zvenyika Makonese, making a welcome return from injury had a chance as early as the first minute when his shot from 18-yards out was saved by visiting goalkeeper Shuaib Walters.
This was followed in the next 10 minutes by efforts of similar range by Wayne Arendse and Mogogi Gabonamong; both however were off target.
Gabonamong again failed to bring a save out of Walters in the 17th minute before Celtic finally enjoyed their first chance in the 20th minute when Moses Spandeel’s free kick sailed over the bar.
Fifteen minutes the Cape side spurned another goal-scoring opportunity when Gabonamong failed to beat Walters with a header following a corner by Erwin Isaacs.
Isaacs then followed suit almost immediately afterwards when his powerfully struck shot from just outside the area flew over the bar.
In the 42nd minute Musa Otieno could do no better than his team-mates when he was off target with a header from another Isaacs set-piece.
Following the change-around it was once again Santos who found themselves presented with a chance to break the deadlock, but Thando Mngomeni was unable to get his free kick on target in the 53rd minute.
Home goalkeeper Wayne Roberts was finally called to make his first save of the match in the 62nd minute when he held onto Tumelo Nhlapo’s 20-yard shot. Eight minutes later there was action at the other end of the field, resulting in Isaacs’s 25-yard effort flying wide of the net.
Ntokozo Sikhakhane enjoyed a rare opportunity for the Free State side, before the hosts finally got the goal that looked as if was beginning to elude them.
Romano Scott was the man to do the damage, finishing clinically with a low shot after a long through ball by Otieno.
Santos held onto their slender lead to record a much-needed win and bring some respite to under-pressure coach Jean-Marc Ithier.