Moeketsi Sekola gave the visitors a 40th minute lead before two superb late goals from Siphesihle Ndlovu and Mohau Mokate made it a night to remember in the Midlands.
Maritzburg started brightly and had early chances through Mxolisi Kunene, one of which was fired straight at Highlands keeper Tapuwa Kapini while the other was blazed over the bar
Mokate also had an opportunity on 31 minutes after racing onto long pass from the back from Brian Onyango, only to fire his volley wide.
At the other end, home goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle did very well to keep out Sekola after a neatly worked move from Highlands 10 minutes before the break.
Sekola was however to make no mistake with a clinical low strike from a tight angle in the 40th minute as the Lions of the North drew first blood.
The visiting side nearly added to their lead shortly after the interval - it took two world-class saves within a minute from Mpandle prevent Lindokuhle Mbatha from doing more damage.
Chances were then exchanged as Mokate went close with a header from a Deolin Mekoa cross before Thabo Motladi placed a shot just the wrong side of the post after an incisive break Highlands Park.
Instead it was Maritzburg who were to find another gear as they came storming back and the KZN club were back on level terms in the 75th minute when Ndlovu finished clinically with an angled drive in to the bottom corner following an inventive pass from Yannick Zakri.
The home crowd sensing blood, Maritzburg went looking for the winner yet still had to remain mindful of the ever-dangerous Lions of the North attack.
The match balanced on the knife-edge, a sensational 89th minute move saw United steaming upfield, with Fortune Makaringe's brilliant run and lay-off putting in Mokate for a clinical finish.
Maritzburg held on valiantly in the closing moments to secure victory much to the delight of their loyal home supporters.
Maritzburg United: Mpandle, Tlhone, Xulu, Onyango, Shandu, Kunene, Mekoa, Makaringe, Matima, Ndlovu, Mokate
Substitutes: Barr, De Reuck, Zakri, Allie, Figareido, Makgalwa, Mbatha,
Highlands Park Kapini, Sibande, Rae, Mokoena, Msimango, Ramoraka, Mbatha, Haoseb, Shalulile, Clerk, Clerk.
Substitutes: Heugh, Frenchman, Motsepe, Mofokeng, Allie, Zwane, Mvala.
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