Moroka Swallows played a 0-0 draw with Bloemfontein Celtic in their Premiership encounter in front of a paltry Friday evening crowd at Dobsonville Stadium.
The one point garnered from the stalemate, though, helped Swallows move past Kaizer Chiefs to second place in the standings.
The Birds now carry 21 points after 11 matches while Chiefs are on 20 points after 10 games with a fixture against Santos in Polokwane on Saturday.
They are four points adrift of log leaders SuperSport United who also played a goalless tie with Ajax Cape Town at Cape Town Stadium in a simultaneous fixture to maintain their stance at the top.
These were the first Premiership matches in three weeks following the cup quarterfinals and the two week-long enforced break for international matches.
It showed as both Swallows and Celtic, who despite carrying exciting players in both ranks, failed to provide the spark needed to bring it to life.
Swallows entered the match as the on-form team based on their splendid start to the campaign and were favourites to overpower their often erratic Free State opponents.
The hosts’ first attempt at goal midway through the first-half came from talisman striker Siyabonga Nomvethe who saw his shot saved by Patrick Tignyemb in the Celtic goal.
Midfielder David Mathebula also came close to opening the scores moments later with a free kick taken outside the box that rebounded off the woodwork.
Celtic had given a first start to burly Nigerian forward Ezenwa Otorugu, who played for Orlando Pirates last season, alongside Luyanda Bacela.
They had a goal disallowed in the first-half by referee Lwandile Mfiki with the striking combination gelling as Otorugu supplied Bacela, who was deemed to have been in an offside position, albeit after some deliberation from the match official.
With scores deadlocked at the interval, Swallows coach Gordon Igesund brought on Bennet Chenene and Mpho Maleka for the ineffective Lerato Chabangu and Oscar Machapa as they searched for the breakthrough.
As Swallows surged forward in the opening minutes, Mathebula came close again in the 55th minute, with a rasping shot that was tipped over the bar by Tignyemb.
The visitor’s coach Clinton Larsen brought on old war horse Cecil Oerson for Buhle Mkhwanazi as Celtic looked to find momentum in the match.
While second-half chances fell for Otorugu and winger Phenyo Mongala, Phunya Sele Sele could have wrapped up the crucial three points on the road through Otorugu who had a shot saved by Swallows keeper Greg Etafia at point blank range on the hour mark.
Celtic’s finishing has been their biggest concern in the campaign that now has them move a place to sixth on the table with 15 points after 11 games — with a better goal difference to Pirates, who play Bidvest Wits this weekend. — Sapa