A below-par Ahly needed a stoppage-time goal from winger Ramadan Sobhi to secure a 1-1 Egyptian League draw with second-from-bottom Ghazl El-Mahalla at Alexandria Stadium on Thursday.
Minnows Mahalla took the lead early in the second half through forward Mohamed Yehia, whose goal could have shockingly proved the winner if it wasn't for a 95th-minute goal from Sobhi.
Mahalla defender Mohamed Ramadan received his marching orders seven minutes from time following a second bookable offence, while Abdallah El-Said wasted the chance to draw level from the spot in stoppage time.
Ahly remain top of the league table on 40 points, eight ahead of second-placed Zamalek who host Aswan later in the day, while Mahalla lie second-from-bottom on eight.
Mahalla sit back, Ahly waste
The match kicked off with Mahalla determined to sit back and give the Ahly backline all the time on the ball, while looking to hit the league leaders on the break.
Ahly, on the other side struggled to get around the hosts' low block, with playmaker El-Said coming deep frequently to receive the ball.
El-Said was then strongly involved in Ahly's first chance of the game, when he saw a header miss the target following striker Amr Gamal's cross from the left hand-side of the area after 17 minutes.
But it was just three minutes later when forward Mohamed Mohsen found himself through on goal after breaking the offside trap from the half-way line, before keeper Sherif Ekramy rushed out timely to clear the ball away.
It seemed as if Ahly, who also didn't look quite organized without the ball, needed a piece of individual skill to break the deadlock, as Sabri Rahil came close in the 34th minute with a great free kick which was kept away by the keeper.
But a brilliant combination between John Antwi, who started in an inside-right position, and Gamal suggested otherwise - when the Ghanaian went through on goal before seeing his sliding effort cleared away by a defender.
With Mahalla looking to capitalise on the space behind the Ahly full backs, it was Ahly who posed real threat through Antwi in the 40th minute before a blistering shot from El-Said was blocked by the keeper minutes later.
Sobhi's last-gasp leveler
It was just three minutes into the second half when El-Mahalla took the lead through Yehia, whose left-footed effort beat keeper Ekramy from inside the box after receiving a cross from Mohamed Khalifa who broke clear down the right.
The minnows then expectedly sit back in an attempt to defend their slender lead, with an out-of-sorts Ahly completely unable to signal threat on goal.
A low strike from long-range from El-Said that went narrowly wide looked to be the maximum Ahly could do, with the opportunity arriving in the 64th minute.
Second half-substitute Evouna also came close from inside the area, when his brilliant acrobatic effort missed the target by inches just 10 minutes from time.
Ahly, however, had the chance to equalize earlier when Mahalla's Abdel-Rahman Bahgat handled the ball inside the area, only for the referee to point to the spot in the third minute of the nine-minute stoppage time.
El-Said stepped up to take the penalty, but keeper Mohamed Fawzi was there to thwart the Ahly midfielder from nine yards.
Ramadan Sobhi finally gave Ahly their long-awaited equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time after gathering a mishit clearance near the edge of the box before beating keeper Fawzi at the near post.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)