Johannesburg (AFP) – A Royal AM team coached by former Malawi star John Maduka moved closer to a fairy tale top-two finish in the South African Premiership on Sunday and qualification for the CAF Champions League.

The Durban-based outfit led twice in a 2-2 away draw with Stellenbosch in the western Cape winelands that moved them two points clear of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the chase for second spot.

Runaway leaders and former African champions Mamelodi Sundowns hold a 14-point lead with seven fixtures to fulfil as they pursue a record-extending fifth straight title.

But the battle for second spot and a 2022-2023 Champions League place is wide open with Royal and sixth-placed Stellenbosch among five clubs who have realistic hopes.

Royal lost out on automatic promotion to the top flight last season after rivals Sekhukhune United were awarded three points from a match they lost because the winners fielded an ineligible player.

The furious Durban club refused to take part in the promotion play-offs but, with another season in the second division looming, they bought cash-strapped Premiership side Bloemfontein Celtic.

After losing their first two matches, Maduka turned the tide and the rookies have won 10 and drawn seven of 20 subsequent league games.

Royal seemed set for an 11th victory when they took the lead in Stellenbosch for the second time seven minutes from time through Tebogo Potsane after the referee altered his original offside call.

But Royal goalkeeper Patrick Nyame could only parry an 89th-minute free-kick and Judas Moseamedi tucked the rebound into the net.

Substitute Moseamedi had, earlier in the second half, cancelled the first-half lead Mxolisi Macuphu gave the visitors in a match staged behind closed doors because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Chiefs, who lost to Al Ahly of Egypt in the 2021 CAF Champions League final, suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat by Golden Arrows in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The lone goal came after just five minutes when Zimbabwean Know Mutizwa pounced on a weak back-pass from Eric Mathoho and netted with a shot over goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma.

Cape Town City continued an impressive climb up the table by scoring in the 89th minute through Thabo Nodada to edge Marumo Gallants 1-0 and occupy fifth place.

At the other end of the table, TS Galaxy remained second last after being held 1-1 at home by SuperSport United.