Zamalek struck at the death to salvage an exciting 2-2 draw at Gouna as the Egyptian Premier League resumed on Sunday following a lengthy Nations Cup break, but their hopes to win the title were dealt what could be a fatal blow.
Substitute Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz headed home seven minutes into stoppage time to secure a share of spoils, keeping alive Zamalek's slim hopes of dethroning arch rivals and leaders Ahly, who are close to wrapping up a fourth successive title.
Defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed, one of the few Egypt players to earn praise in their disappointing Nations Cup campaign, put Zamalek ahead with a sublime screamer three minutes past the hour mark.
However, two blunders from keeper Omar Salah, who stood in for the injured Mahmoud Gennesh, cost Zamalek dear.
He mis-judged a cross from the right to leave substitute Ahmed Rayan with a simple tap-in before pushing a cross-cum-shot from Mahmoud El-Shabrawi into his own net with two minutes remaining.
Zamalek needed to beat Gouna, Ismaily and Ahly in their last three matches to clinch their first league crown since 2015, but their Sunday draw put their Cairo foes within touching distance of retaining their title.
Ahly lead the table with 74 points, five clear of Zamalek. Should Ahly defeat Arab Contractors on Wednesday, they will be crowned champions before meeting Zamalek on the final day of the season.
In an exciting end-to-end first half, both sides wasted easy chances to go ahead.
Gouna had the better of the early exchanges, with former Egypt forward Nagy Gedo going close with a low shot with the outside of his right foot that narrowly missed the target.
A half-volley from Ahmed Hamdi following a poor defensive clearance was also denied by the post as Gouna threatened to take a surprise lead.
But Zamalek then took control, helped by some precise passes from Tunisia midfielder Ferjani Sassi and tireless runs by winger Ahmed Sayed.
A Sayed shot from the edge of the area was tipped over by Gouna keeper Mohamed El-Gharabawi before skipper and playmaker Mohamed Ibrahim missed a sitter on the stroke of halftime, firing over the bar with the goal gaping after a miscued shot found him.
Zamalek wasted further goal-scoring chances in a vibrant second half before Hamed finally broke the resistance of Gouna with a spectacular swerving volley that left the keeper with no chance.
However, Rayan brought Gouna level with his first touch after coming on, stabbing into an empty net on 78 minutes after a cross eluded keeper Salah and central defender Mahmoud Alaa.
Salah was also at fault for Gouna's second before Abdel-Aziz gave Zamalek a glimmer of hope with his late goal.
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