Two headers from substitute Ahmed Ali helped Zamalek avoid what would have been a stunning defeat as they came from behind to earn a 2-1 win over Nogoum El-Mostaqbal in the Egypt Cup round of 32 on Sunday.
A slow reaction from Zamalek keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi allowed Mohamed Hamam to give the outsiders a surprise lead early in the second half but striker Ali, who replaced the disappointing Abdoulaye Cisse at halftime, scored twice including a 86th-minute goal just when it looked as though the match would go to penalty shootout.
The White Knights won the last Egypt Cup the last two years, beating Smouha in the 2013 final and Wadi Degla last season.
They fell behind nine minutes after the restart when a Hamam shot from the edge of the area went past El-Shennawi, who was too slow to react.
Ali restored parity six minutes later when he headed home a mis-directed volley from striker partner Bassem Morsi from close range.
He powerfully headed home a centre with four minutes remaining to give caretaker Mohamed Salah his third win in as many games since the shocking departure of Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco.
Zamalek had the lion's share of possession in the first half but they were guilty of wasting some clear-cut chances, including a low shot from Morsi that came off the post from inside the area.
The game marked the return from injury of key duo Hazem Emam and Omar Gaber, the right wingers who have been out of action since Zamalek slumped to their first league defeat last month after losing 2-1 to ENPPI.