Ajax Cape Town leap-frogged from fifth position back to the top of the table with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Moroka Swallows last night at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town.
The game was very much a match of two halves, with the home side dominating the first stanza, while Swallows came back strongly in the last 45 minutes.
The only goal of the match was scored by DRC international Tshinyama Tsholola in the 27th minute.
Ajax started briskly and soon caused the Swallows defence problems when Joseph Ngake drove on into the box. Warren Lewis slipped as he tried to clear the ball and the resulting goalmouth melee nearly saw the ball find the back of the net.
The Birds defence looked somewhat shaky in the opening stages. They battled to find their feet and conceded two early corners, while keeper Greg Etafia also had a few anxious moments as he failed to communicate with his defenders.
Swallows' first attacking move came in the eighth minute when Edzai Kasinauyo whipped in a dangerous cross which was put out for a corner by the Ajax defence.
Ajax came desperately close to opening the score when a great cross from Ngake found Brett Evans at the back post. The defender's shot from an acute angle flew off the crossbar and back into play.
Swallows immediately took possession and raced up the field. Kasinauyo found plenty of room down the left, but was unable to deliver a telling ball.
The play again switched to the Swallows half and barely a minute later Grant Igesund was put clean through on goal. However, his first touch was slightly too strong and Etafia did well to smother the danger.
The pace of the game then eased off for a while - until the 26th minute, when Evans swung in a curling cross which found Brent Carelse totally unmarked. Carelse rose well but saw his header fly inches wide of the far post.
The Urban Warriors then took the lead through an excellent move involving Igesund and Tsholola. The former played a lovely flick on straight into the path of the DRC man, who showed good composure to chip the on-rushing Etafia.
The Johannesburg-based side attempted to string some passes together as they went in search of the equaliser, but found it difficult to find much penetration against a tight Ajax defence.
Lucas Sebona, who had been quiet for most of the game, did come close for the Birds in the 38th minute when he used his pace to create space in the Ajax box, but Moeneeb Josephs did well to get down and parry Sebona's low angled shot to safety.
Four minutes later Sebona again came close to scoring when Dennis Lota broke down the left and pulled the ball back, but the Ajax defence did just enough to stop the Swallows player from getting in a clean strike.
Swallows boss Gavin Hunt reshuffled his pack for the second half when he brought on Lungisani Ndledla for the injured Edzai Kasinauyo. He also moved Sebona into a more central striking position and moved his original strike pairing, Lota and Shaun Permall onto the wings.
The move seemed to pay off as Ndledla's height caused many problems for Ajax.
In the 62nd minute he rose well to flick a ball on for Sebona and it needed a last ditch tackle from Cyrille Mubiala to bring him down.
Three minutes later Ndlela had a chance to score himself, but hesitated for too long and allowed Josephs to dispossess him.
It was all Swallows at this stage and in the 67th minute Ndlela once again had a chance to score when an accurate free-kick from Samuel Ngobeni picked him out, but his header was just over the bar.
Five minutes later a well flighted ball to the far post from Peter Petersen nearly undid the home defence, but Lota was just not able to steer the ball home.
Captain Gary McNab followed this effort with a well struck first time volley from the edge of the area, but Josephs was well-positioned to stop the shot.
One of Ajax's few chances in the second half came about when Brent Carelse flicked the ball into the path of substitute Nathan Paulse, who forced a double save out of Etafia.
Hunt then brought on Mark McVeigh with 10 minutes remaining. The former Bush Bucks striker soon found himself in acres of space down the right hand-side. He took the ball goalwards and drove it across the goalmouth.
There were a number of Birds attackers arriving in the box, but the ball managed to agonisingly avoid them all.
McVeigh also came close to scoring with a corner in the closing minutes, but his effort sailed just wide of the far post, ensuring that Igesund's men took all three points on offer.
The result sees the Urban Warriors shoot back up into first place on the log, while the Dube Birds drop one place to fourth, although they are still very much in the running for title honours.