Pitso Mosimane’s side, who opened up a three point lead at the top of the table, dominated most of game before the hosts scored two late goals.
Downs scored through Hlompho Kekana on 36 minutes, Khama Billiat adding a second on 49 minutes and Kekana completing his brace 25 minutes from time. Evans Rusike was on the score-sheet in the 83rd minute before Brian Onyango netted in added time for the KZN side.
There was an early chance for the hosts as Philani Zulu’s flicked header fell just beyond the far post, with Dennis Onyango a beaten man in the Sundowns goal.
But it was to be Sundowns who took charge, the visitors nearly ahead on 15 minutes when Hlompho Kekana’s header rebounded off the underside of the bar, following a Teko Modise free kick, Maritzburg keeper Glenn Verbauwhede then having to make a smart save to keep out Modise’s stinging drive on 17 minutes.
The Brazilians were deservedly in front after 36 minutes when Kekana picked up the ball deep, played a one-two with Leandro Castro, whose return pass enabled the powerful midfielder to bundle in the ball from close range, Verbauwhede helpless to stop the goal on his club debut.
Wayne Arendse sounded a second-half warning for Downs went he went close after stealing in for a back-post header, but moments later it was 2-0, Billiat sprinting clear in the 49th minute before planting a powerful low drive across goal and in at the far post, despite a feint touch by Verbauwhede.
Two minutes later Modise nearly made it three when his volley bounced just over the Maritzburg goal, the same player drawing another good save from the ever-busy Verbauwhede before Arendse had a goal ruled out for off-sides in what was a very tight call.
Kekana got his second on 64 minutes, a superb individual effort as he glided past two or three defenders before curling the ball in at the far post.
Billiat should really have made it 4-0 on 69 minutes, but shot wide from five yards out with an open goal at his mercy.
Instead it was the Team of Choice who were to pull one back, Evans Rusike scoring with a well-placed shot after some neat interplay by the hosts in the 83rd minute; 1-3.
Brian Onyango smashed in a volley in the dying seconds, but there was never any doubting the outcome of this match in Pietermaritzburg.