Baroka forced a 1-1 draw at Black Leopards Saturday with 10 men to buck a trend and retain their South African Premiership status.
Only three of 12 previous top-flight clubs involved in end-of-season play-offs against two second division sides have won the mini-league and remained among the elite.
Unbeaten Baroka accumulated eight points from four matches to top the final standings while Leopards (five) and Stellenbosch (two) must play at least one more season in the second division.
Success guarantees Baroka a 1.5 million rand ($120,000, 105,000 euros) monthly grant next season -- five times more than second division sides receive.
It also allows the club from northern region capital Polokwane to compete for 29 million rand in league and cup prize money, compared with seven million in the second tier.
Needing a two-goal victory to finish first on goal difference, hosts Leopards gradually surrendered early momentum and fell behind after 34 minutes.
Richard Matlogo dribbled past several Leopards and when his stinging shot was parried by goalkeeper Rotshidzwa Muleka, Victor Letsoalo hammered the rebound into the net.
Letsoalo changed from hero to villain early in the second half when a second yellow card resulted in him being sent off.
Leopards levelled on 66 minutes as a clumsy foul triggered a penalty which captain Leonard Ntshangase converted as goalkeeper Tshinuna Avhashoni moved the wrong way.
Needing two more goals to snatch promotion, Leopards pressed forward in the final quarter of the game, but Baroka often looked more threatening when they counterattacked.