The Golden Lions managed to avoid an opening Currie Cup defeat after edging past a determined Pumas outfit 31-27 in Jo'burg on Friday.
A try to centre Alwyn Hollenbach in the 69th minute proved to be the match-winner as the hosts held on to deny their visitors what would have been a deserved victory.
Having led for the majority of the second half, the brave Pumas at least left Coca-Cola Park with a consolation losing bonus point.
But coach Jimmy Stonehouse was visibly an upset man following the final whistle after watching his side surrender their lead, which included throwing a pass that led to a crucial intercept try by Lions fly-half Burton Francis.
The Lions - with the bulk of their Super Rugby players in action - will be relieved to have won, and perhaps an early wake-up call is exactly what they needed.
The Lions drew first blood through the boot of Francis who converted an early penalty. The visitors levelled the scores minutes later thanks to a drop-goal by Pumas pivot Ricardo Croy.
The hosts took the lead once again when prop Jacobie Adriaanse burrowed his way over the tryline, and the TMO gave him the green light. Francis converted to give his side a seven-point lead 16 minutes into the first half.
The Pumas replied with a sensational try by wing Ashwin Scott with a quarter gone in the first half. The underdogs floated the ball wide to JW Jonker who accelerated away from the defenders, then popped the ball to Scott who managed to score in the corner with little space to spare.
Francis once more succeeded with a penalty goal to hand his side the lead for the second time in the match.
The Pumas, however, came back with a vengeance with Scott playing an integral part in their second try of the match.
The wing thwarted a tackle attempt from Dylan des Fountain, sold a dummy to Cobus Grobelaar, then offloaded to Pieter Engelbrecht who darted through to score under the posts.
Croy's conversion put the Pumas into a handy four-point (17-13) lead with seven minutes left in the half. As the first half drew to a close, Francis slotted another penalty to bring his side within one point (17-16) going into the half-time break.
The second half started with Pumas lock forward Marius Coetzer trotting through for his side's third try after ripping the ball from a Lions player at the ruck with the tryline opening in front of him.
This shocked the Lions and their supporters into a lull but the silence was soon broken when Francis scored from a gifted pass by Pumas scrum-half Shaun Venter and made a sprint of over 50 metres to claim his five-pointer.
He converted his own try to bring the Lions within one point of the Pumas.
Three minutes later the Lions went in front thanks to another Francis penalty but then relinquished the lead after Croy's successful three-pointer.
The tide finally turned in the Lions favour with eleven minutes to go in the game when Hollenbach scored in the right-hand corner. Francis converted to give the home side a four-point lead which they hung on to for dear life.
For Golden Lions:
Tries: Adriaanse, Francis, Hollenbach
Cons: Francis 2
Pens: Francis 4
Tries: Scott, Engelbrecht, Coetzer
Cons: Croy 3
Drop goal: Croy
Golden Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Dylan Des Fountain, 13 Alwyn Hollenbach, 12 Doppies La Grange (c), 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joshua Strauss, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pat Cilliers.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Johan Snyman, 19 Dries van Schalkwyk, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Hein Cronje, 22 Michael Killian.
Pumas: 15 MJ Mentz, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Pieter Engelbrecht, 11 Ashwin Scott, 10 Ricardo Croy, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Christo le Roux, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corne Steenkamp (c), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Brett Nel, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 RW Kember, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Tiaan Marx, 22 Carl Bezuidenhout.
Referee: Stuart Berry