Maritzburg had played some bright football and scored first through Kwanda Mngonyama in the 56th before Shalulile netted right at the death in front of a large home crowd.
United were to enjoy more of the ball possession in the opening half, although for the most part it was a fast-paced and evenly-contested encounter.
The first chance of the game arrived to United side after six minutes, but Thabiso Kutumela fired his shot straight at goalkeeper Marlon Heugh.
The Lions of the North meanwhile were looking to play long-ball counter-attacking football, with Peter Shalulile’s pace central to that.
Shalulile was to have a succession of chances midway through the half, but sent two shots over the bar and then had another effort correctly ruled off-sides.
Maritzburg though were to end the half on top, with new signing Dan Morgan going close with a rising shot over the bar and a free kick which flew off the head of defender Sifiso Mbhele and narrowly wide of goal.
Highlands began the second half on the front foot and Shalulile headed a cross just over the bar on 55 minutes.
Then on the counter-attack, the Team of Choice worked the ball to Miguel Timm, who expertly threaded a ball in for Kwanda Mngonyama, whose low shot deflected off the leg of Bevan Fransman and into the goal.
The Lions of the North looked to mount an immediate response and it took two brilliant saves from goalkeeper Richard Ofori to keep out a Shalulile shot as well as a misplaced header from Siyanda Xulu.
At the other end, chances came and went for the Team of Choice, as Rushine De Reuck headed just wide from a corner before Bandile Shandu missed the target after a surging run into the box.
Then, after visiting defender Sifiso Mbhele was sent off in the 90th minute, there was heartbreak for Maritzburg as Shalulile pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired in a low shot past a helpless Ofori.
Maritzburg: Ofori, De Reuck, Xulu, Allie, Morgan, Mngonyama, Shandu, Timm, Claasen, Kutumela, Mokate
Subs: Buchanan, Moseamedi, Lea'alafa, Mpandle, Ntshangase, Mekoa, Jappie.
Highlands: Heugh, Mokoena, Mbhele, Mzava, Ramoraka, Fransman, Makhaula, Jooste, Mvala, Ramagalela, Shalulile
Subs: Ngobeni, Rae, Mbatha, Msane, Mahlangu, Mogaila, Ndoro