Santos wasted a gilt-edged chance to steer clear of relegation when they were beaten 1-0 by SuperSport United in Pretoria on Wednesday night.
Abram Raselemane's second half strike sealed the points for Pitso Mosimane's men, but the People's Team will feel they had enough opportunities to ease their predicament at the bottom of the Premier Soccer League table.
They twice hit the woodwork, while United also had to scramble to clear a Edries Burton's header off the goal-line.
Lebohang Kukame saw his long-range effort hit the crossbar after only three minutes, while Jean-Marc Ithier spurned a relatively easy chance a few minutes later.
Defender Ricardo Katza came to his side's rescue midway through the first half when he headed Burton's effort away from under the crossbar, before the latter struck a freekick against the upright with the keeper well beaten.
Santos' luck continued on the half hour when referee Peter Mabuza inexplicably failed to hand Robert Nauseb his marching orders for a blatant professional foul on Lungisani Ndlela.
From the resultant freekick, United had their first real effort when Daine Klate's freekick was parried around the post by Brendan Wardle.
The two teams went into the break on level terms, but it took only two minutes after the break for the hosts to take the lead.
Ndlela's shot was again parried by Wardle, but this time straight into the path of Raselemane, who made no mistake with the finish.
Santos continued to pile on the pressure, but United held firm to take the victory and move level with fourth-placed Moroka Swallows on 45 points.