Durban: Stand-in skipper Stephen Ireland scored at the end of the first half to give Manchester City a 1-0 victory over Kaizer Chiefs.
The midfielder used his left foot to finish off a Kelvin Etuhu cross in the third minute of stoppage time after a fast attack down the right flank exposed ball-watching Chiefs defenders at Absa Stadium.
New signings Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz watched from a stand as City showed improvement after a 2-0 loss to Orlando Pirates last Saturday in the first match of a South African tour.
City, whose starting line-up included other close-season signings Wayne Bridge and Gareth Barry, are guaranteed a place in the Challenge final in Pretoria on Saturday.
Arch domestic rivals Chiefs and Pirates clash on Thursday in Port Elizabeth to decide who faces the big-spending English Premiership outfit for a trophy won by Manchester United last year.
After a lively first half which offered both teams scoring chances, the game deteriorated dramatically on a cool winter evening in the Indian Ocean city and the final whistle came as a blessing for the incident-starved crowd.
Ireland should have put City ahead on 19 minutes after springing an offside trap, but goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune darted off the goalline to block the ball with his body.
Chiefs came close to ending the stalemate when Ryan McGivern almost conceded an own goal as he tried to clear a low cross under pressure from striker Kaizer Motaung, a son of Chiefs owner.
Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor, making a second consecutive appearance as City manager Mark Hughes rested first choice Shay Given, struggled to parry a David Mathebula drive as Chiefs pressed.
Ineffective City striker Felipe Caicedo was cautioned before Ireland struck the winner and Barry received a yellow card early in the second half for shirt tugging.
Barry and Bridge were replaced and Motaung squandered Chiefs best chance of the match nine minutes from full-time, firing wide from close range with only Taylor to beat.
Etuhu, younger brother of Fulham midfielder Dickson, also wasted a glorious opportunity by blazing wide after rounding Khune and facing an unguarded goal on the stroke of full-time.