Highlands’s two changes saw Thabo Motlafi and Sphiwe Mahlangu return to the side, whilst United went for Nazeer Allie, Pogisho Sanoka, Judas Moseamedi, Yannick Zakri and Alan Kateregga for their five changes.
After a tentative opening, United were given a big let off after Sello Motsepe mis-directed a free-kick from Ricardo Williams 28 minutes in.
Then, a breakaway attack from Highlands on 33 minutes nearly resulted in an own-goal from Rushine De Reuck but Richard Ofori was on hand to prevent the intended danger.
United ended the half strong, with Sanoka’s half-volley from inside the area five minutes to the break hitting the roof of the net.
The tough combustible nature that marred the first stanza, continued in the earlier phases of the second half with both sides keeping a tight lid on proceedings.
The Lions of the North missed a good chance to grab the opener late on after Peter Shalulile held off two bodies to miss a sitter from five metres.
The Namibian was rewarded after 76 minutes when he made use of poor communication in defence to beat Ofori with a low finish into the bottom corner.
Highlands looked for more goals, but were denied by disastrous finishing and ill-timed offensive combinations.
As a result, the victory takes Owen Da Gama’s side right into eighth place ahead of Bloemfontein Celtic who welcome Cape Town City on Sunday while United remain bottom.
Maritzburg: Ofori, Kunene, Xulu, Allie, Sanoka, Makaringe, Timm, Kateregga, Moseamedi, De Reuck, Zakri.
Subs: Mpandle, Figareido, Matsi, Kutumela, Shandu, Mokate, Mekoa.