The victory moves Ajax four points clear of Baroka FC in the relegation play-off position and ends a run of eight matches without a victory, though there was certainly plenty of nervousness to their play as they rode their luck at times.
Highlands remain rooted to the foot of the table, but had their chances to get at least a point from the game in what was a disappointing night for former Urban Warriors coach Gordon Igesund.
Desperate current Ajax tactician Stanley Menzo made three changes to his starting line-up, bringing in fit-again Rivaldo Coetzee, attacking midfielder Bantu Mzwakali and striker Prince Nxumalo for Yagan Sasman, Ndiviwe Mdabuka and Nathan Paulse respectively.
Highlands had Zambian hitman Collins Mbesuma on the bench after four-and-a-half months on the sidelines with a knee injury, but the only change to their starting line-up was the return of Nigerian fullback Ayo Oluwafemi, who replaced junior Sibande.
The home side started the brighter and were rewarded for their enterprise on nine minutes when Mayambela gave them the lead with a well-taken goal.
He played a one-two with Nxumalo and raced into the penalty-area, finding himself one-on-one with Highlands goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini. Instead of blasting the ball, the winger produced a deft chip, showing excellent composure and plenty of confidence.
Mayambela raced to celebrate with beleaguered coach Menzo after the goal, with the relief palpable right through the side, a further sign of the pressure they are currently operating under.
The winger was clearly in the mood though and Highlands were finding it hard to keep him quiet. He produced another storming run into the box but his fine cross just eluded opposite winger Thabo Mosadi when a touch would surely have resulted in a goal.
The visitors had first half chances of their own – Peter Shalulile steered a good headed chances wide, while Brandon Theron failed to hit the target when it seemed easier to score.
And Highlands continued to pile on the pressure in the second half as Charlton Mashumba missed an excellent opportunity, but his free header was straight at Ajax keeper Jody February.
Ajax introduced experienced former Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns winger Lebogang Mokoena 10 minutes after the break for his first appearance since mid-October, and he immediately combined with Mayambela and Nxumalo, but Highlands were able to clear.
Ajax came close to doubling their advantage when Mosadi smashed a long-range drive against the crossbar.
Mbesuma made his return onto the pitch with a little over 10 minutes remaining and missed a good chance to grab a point when he connected with a cross from former Ajax winger Franklin Cale, but headed over.
Next up for Ajax is an away trip to Lamontville Golden Arrows on Saturday, while Highlands host a rejuvinated Orlando Pirates on the same day.
– TMG Digital