With SuperSport United suffering a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Golden Arrows, Bucs could have drawn level on points had they held on, but a late lapse of concentration now means they need Matsatsantsa to lose their final game away to Santos, while Pirates must beat AmaZulu at home.
Pirates were on top from the outset, taking the game to the home side, who looked a little shell-shocked in the opening stages.
But for all their positive play in attack, it did take all of 21 minutes for their first chance, which arrived when Teko Modise pulled the ball across goal to Katlego Mashego, whose right-footed shot was palmed to safety by Andre Petim.
Modise was running the show for Pirates and came agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the 31st minute when a rasping shot from a central position outside the box crashed against the upright.
Ajax’ best, and indeed, only promising moments in attack came towards the end of the half as Franklin Cale hit a fierce free-kick just over the bar and Moeneeb Josephs made an acrobatic save to tip Mabuthi Khenyeza’s angled drive to safety.
It would have been Pirates, however, who went into the half-time break the disappointed side as they had nothing to show for their dominance.
However, the advent of the second half saw Pirates successfully upping their game a notch, resulting in them taking a deserved lead on 50 minutes when Lucas Thwala got on the end of Josephy Kamwendo’s corner to power a header into the back of the net.
Dipsy Selolwane should have levelled matters soon after, but from 16 yards out right in front of goal, he sent his volley just wide.
Slowly but surely, however, the Cape Town team started to play themselves back into the game as the likes Khenyeza, Cale and Thulani Serero began to threaten in attack.
It was the young Serero who went on to break the hearts of the Pirates faithful at Newlands as his deflected shot leveled matters in the 85th minute.
CAN PIRATES STILL DO IT? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW ...