Zamalek needed a late winner from forward Youssef Ibrahim to snatch a 2-1 victory over Arab Contractors and move top of the Egyptian Premier League on Sunday, at least temporarily.
Spot-kick specialist Mahmoud Alaa converted an early penalty to give Zamalek the lead and take his tally to six goals in eight matches.
Although the hosts had territorial dominance and looked close to doubling their lead, Contractors scored against the run of play on the half-hour mark, thanks to a fine strike from Islam Fouad.
Zamalek looked sluggish in the second half but the late introduction of Omar El-Said made the difference, with the towering striker setting up Ibrahim for the winner with a brilliant header five minutes from time.
The White Knights, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Smouha in their previous game, are on top of the table with 17 points, two ahead of second-placed Pyramids who still have a game in hand. Contractors lie 13th on seven points.
Zamalek's Congolese forward Kabongo Kasongo missed a sitter after going one-on-one with the keeper after 19 seconds but they soon went ahead.
A cross from Tunisian right-back Hamdi Nagguez struck the arm of Contractors defender Ibrahim Adel and Alaa fired a powerful penalty home, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Zamalek remained in control after going ahead and had a goal disallowed for offside but were caught out in the first effort by Contractors on 30 minutes.
A floated cross from Ahmed Ali was flicked by Taher Mohamed into the path of the unmarked Fouad, whose superb half-volley beat keeper Mahmoud Gennesh at his near post.
Contractors could have gone ahead early in the second half when striker Ahmed Ali, an ex-Zamalek player, superbly skipped past Alaa with a headed flick but his angled shot narrowly missed the target from close range.
Zamalek's Kahraba also had a shot denied by the post in one of their few chances in a poor second half.
However, they still had the last word when El-Said unselfishly cushioned a header to Ibrahim, nicknamed Obama after the former US president, to slot home.
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