The Buccaneers looked set for their first defeat since November last year when Lehlohonolo Majoro scored with just three minutes of regulation time left, but the hosts extended their unbeaten run to 13 games when Happy Jele netted in the last minute of added time to make it 1-1.
Pirates dominated possession in the first half but, thanks to some good pressing from AmaZulu, they lacked the fluency of passing through midfield that had seen them pick up six straight wins heading into this match.
The visitors’ backline, though it was made up mostly of makeshift defenders such as Tsweu Mokoro (right-back), Thami Sangweni (centre-back) and Sibusiso Hadebe (left-back), coped admirably with whatever Pirates could throw at them.
The hosts had only one real sight of goal in the first half. 10 minutes into the game, Thulasizwe Mbuyane played in a cross from the right that fell invitingly for the late run of Phenyo Mongala, but the Botswana winger saw his effort well saved by the feet of Mbongeni Mzimela.
Three minutes later Usuthu felt hard done by when Tangeni Shipahu went down under a clumsy challenge from Lucky Lekgwathi in the 18-yard area, but referee Abdul Ebrahim opted not to award a penalty.
Pirates were dealt an early injury blow when Mbuyane had to be withdrawn on 27 minutes with a knock to his left knee; Patrick Malokase came off the bench to replace him.
AmaZulu, though they saw little of the ball, looked potent whenever they had the chance to attack, with the pace of Shipahu, Ayanda Dlamini and young winger-cum-striker Gavin Hammers a clear worry for the home team’s defence.
The second half saw Pirates enjoy even more dominance and they should have opened the scoring in the 72nd minute when Katlego Mashego found himself won-on-one with Mzimela; the striker beat the keeper with his shot but the ball rebounded off the base of the upright.
Four minutes later Mzimela pulled off the save of the match when the tipped over a deflected header from Rooi Mahamutsa that threatened to finally break the deadlock.
Totally against the run of play, AmaZulu took the lead in the 87th minute. A rare attack saw Hadebe play in a flat cross from the left flank, substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro controlled the ball and cracked home a superb left-footed shot from the edge of the box.
It was a superb finish from the Usuthu attacker, exactly the kind of clinical execution that Pirates needed at the other end in order to come good on their dominance.
The home side looked destined for their first League defeat since November last year but in the final minute of referee’s optional time they drew level, with Jele shooting home on the turn after a scramble in the AmaZulu penalty area.