Sharks debutant SP Marais scored a try six minutes from full time which allowed the Sharks to hold on for a 33-25 Currie Cup victory over the Lions at Kings Park in Durban on Friday evening.
The utility back, who signed from the Southern Kings earlier this month, added to tries by Brynard Stander and centre Heimar Williams.
The plucky visitors, who remain winless in the competition, also scored three tries thanks to a brace from Anthony Volmink and a Jaco Kriel effort.
This was a the first victory for the new Sharks coaching staff of Brendan Venter, the director of rugby, Brad Macleod-Henderson and Sean Everitt.
At the start, Elton Jantjies kicked over the first points when Louis Ludik and Lubabalo Mtembu were called for off-side.
The hosts had a chance to hit straight back when Kriel failed to roll away and James was on target from right in front.
The game burst into life in the 11th minute when James' kick-ahead was gathered by Marnitz Boshoff almost on his try-line, with the fullback offloading to Volmink, who ran almost the length of the field for his first score.
Again the Sharks came straight back and James doubled their tally when Dylan des Fountain was punished for holding on.
But the home side were punished again inside the opening quarter as winger Volmink intercepted a pass from debutant Williams close to the halfway line to score under the post.
The tide turned when a clever pick up and drive by Stander at the base of the ruck handed the Sharks their first try after 22 minutes as they stayed in touch.
And they took the lead just after the half-hour when the Lions made a hash of a line-out on their goal-line and the recycled ball eventually fell for centre Williams to score.
Three minutes before the break, the coastal side were reduced to 14 men after a yellow card to Odwa Ndungane for a high tackle, although his team held on to their slender three-point lead at the interval.
Johann Ackermann's side claimed their third try eight minutes after the break when Kriel collected from Deon Helberg and expertly chipped and collected over Lwazi Mvovo to run in on the right.
James added another penalty, this time when Ruan Dreyer was called for obstruction, as the lead changed hands once again.
Boshoff was denied a fourth Lions try just after the hour after the television official Deon van Blommestein ruled that CJ van de Linde was in an obstructing position -- the Sharks lead staying at just one point at that stage.
Jantjies and replacement Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga exchanged further penalties, before Marais intercepted on the right and ran in under the post to seal the win.
Final Score Sharks 33 Lions 25
Tries: Brynard Stander, Heimar Williams, SP Marais
Conversions: Butch James (2), Fred Zeilinga
Penalties: James (3), Zeilinga.
Tries: Anthony Volmink (2), Jaco Kriel
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2)
Penalty: Jantjies (2).