The match got off to a lively start as both sides pressed early, with Thabo Matlaba forging the best chance of the opening 10 minutes with a blistering long-range shot, only for his team-mate to deflect the ball away from goal.
Pirates would eventually find the breakthrough after just 13 minutes as Oupa Manyisa’s whipped corner was met by the leaping Ayanda Gcaba, who powerfully headed the ball into the back of the net.
United had a good chance to level matters midway through the first-half after winning a free-kick in a really promising position, and although Evans Rusike got plenty of power on his low shot, he was unable to find the target as the ball fizzed just wide.
Maritzburg looked destined to draw themselves level with 35 minutes gone as the Pirates defence was caught napping from Devon Saal’s ball over the top, although Siyabonga Mpontshane was off his line a flash to make a point-blank save at the feet of Bandile Shandu.
Pirates had a great chance to double their lead four minutes after the restart as Tendai Ndoro was played through on goal, only to fire wastefully wide when he had plenty to aim for.
Things went from bad to worse for United with an hour gone on the clock as Brian Onyango found himself in the referee’s notebook for a second time after a reckless challenge on Ndoro, with the match official left with little choice but to show the red card.
And with around 10 minutes remaining, Pirates took advantage of the numbers with a slick passing move, Dove Wome playing a sumptuous one-two with Ndoro before smartly firing his shot past the on-rushing keeper and into the back of the net.
That goal took any sting out of Maritzburg’s tail and frustrations soon boiled over as the hosts found themselves down to nine men with seven minutes remaining as Deolin Mekoa picked up a second booking to join team-mate Onyango in an early walk of shame.
Pirates’ night ended with concern, though, as Gcaba needed to be stretchered off injured as play became scrappy in the closing stages, although the goal-scorer played down any serious worries.