Highlands missed the presence of top scorer Mothobi Mvala, but gave a start to Zimbabwean Tendai Ndoro against his former charges in front of a packed Tembisa crowd.
Inside 90 seconds from the start, the two sides attacked with pace as the ball shifted from one end to the other in quick succession.
Pirates opened up the encounter with the first shot on target after Vincent Pule controlled a cross into the box before taking on one defender to get a shot away, but Marlon Heugh saved easily.
All the while, the Lions of the North silently constructed their dues with a few half chances falling astray from individuals such as Ndoro and Lindokuhle Mbatha.
The hosts threatened to go in front after Ndoro’s outstretched leg forced Siyabonga Mpontshane into a point-blank save following a left-sided cross inside 18 minutes.
Thrown into the deep end, youngster Tebogo Mahlangu made a run on the shoulder of the defence to get a shot away which failed to trouble Siyabonga Mpontshane midway through the first half,
Bucs ended the half strongly with Abbubaker Mobara’s surging run to the box nearly leading to a penalty, but the officiating team waved aside the protests.
In added time, Ryan Rae found the top of the goal-post after beating Mpontshane to a cross from a corner to end off the half.
The second period started with the same pace and intensity, as Bucs nearly went ahead after a cross-cum shot from Innocent Maela crashed the top of the crossbar, with Mobara unable to steer home the rebound.
Highlands were given an incredible let off when an inch-perfect pass from Pule set free Justin Shonga, who rounded the goalkeeper before having his effort cleared off the line.
That miss came back to haunt the Ghost as the hosts took the lead with a hard and low bottom corner finish from Mahlangu after connecting with Ndoro on 60 minutes.
Bucs though weren’t behind for long as Lorch played a quick one-two around the box to get behind Heugh for an easy finish seconds later.
A short corner from the Sea Robbers picked out Lorch who twisted inside the box to get a shot away but Heugh made a close-range save moments later.
The Tembisa outfit were in front yet again after a through pass from the midfield landed at the feet of Peter Shalulile who shrugged off the challenge from Xola Mlambo to round Mpontshane for an easy tap-in on 64 minutes.
Despite being in front, the hard-running home outfit didn’t sit back and retreated. Instead, a shot from substitute Brian Haoseb almost led to a third goal but Mpontshane saved.
In the final 10 minutes, an inspiring substitution in Kudakwashe Mahachi led to the equaliser after the ball slipped from the grasp of Heugh from a left-sided cross, allowing the Zimbabwean to convert comfortably.
Bucs appealed for a penalty in added time following shouts for a handball inside the box, but Thando Ndzandzeka dismissed the appeal as the match ended in a draw.
Highlands: Heugh, Sibande, Williams, L. Mokoena, Msimango, Rae (Motsepe 82’), Mbatha (Haoseb 71’), Mahlangu, Shalulile, Ndoro, Mbunjana (Mogaila 55’)
Subs: Kapini, Haoseb, Ramoraka, Motlafi, Alli, . Mogaila, 34. Motsepe.
Pirates; Mpontshane, Mobara (Mntambo 80’), Maela, Jele, Marcelo, Nyatama, Lorch, Mlambo, Shonga(Mahachi 77’), Pule (Gabuza 77’), Mulenga.
Subs: Sandilands, Ndengane, Mbekile, Makola, Mntambo, Mahachi, Gabuza.