It was no coincidence that both goal-scorers for the victors were defenders on a night in which Pirates goalkeeper Felipe Ovono’s weakness in the air was badly exposed.
Wits made a promising start to the game, but a reckless challenge by Thulani Hlatshwayo on Tendai Ndoro resulted in a 15th minute penalty which saw captain Oupa Manyisa expertly sending Moeneeb Josephs the wrong way to put the Buccaneers in front.
Following the goal, the Clever Boys gradually began to build up a head of steam in attack, some dangerous balls into the box exposing Pirates keeper Ovono on a couple of occasions.
There was a warning on 32 minutes when Gabadinho Mhango blazed a header wide, the diminutive marksman afforded too much space in the Bucs box.
Ovono was then found wanting again for the equaliser, the Equatorial Guinea custodian allowing Buhle Mkhwanazi’s header from a set-piece to creep through his grasp as Wits levelled in the 38th minute.
By now the wind was in the home side’s sails and they could have gone in front on 41 minutes, but an unmarked Mkhwanazi was wayward with his header.
Pirates, however, began the second half with intent and were agonisingly close to scoring just after the break when Ndoro raced clear of the home defence, but had to watch as his angled parting shot glanced off the outside of the far upright.
The game remained edgy, little to separate the two sides, although it was the Students who were to have two good chances on the hour mark, Thabang Monare’s volley rattling the woodwork before Daine Klate came close with a free kick.
Ovono was having a night to forget and nearly gifted Wits the lead on 70 minutes when he spilled another cross, but Hlatshwayo was unable to get the ball over the line from seven yards out.
Ndoro was then to squander a fantastic opportunity at the other end – having taken the ball around Josephs, the Zimbabwean sent the ball over an empty net.
It was to prove costly as the Students took the lead shortly afterwards, Hlatshwayo scoring from close range after Ovono spilled Monare’s crisp strike into the Wits captain’s path.
There was no way back for Pirates as the hosts held on doggedly to book their spot in the semi-finals alongside Cape Town City and Chippa United with the game between Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United still to come on Sunday.