Substitute Islam Mohareb scored against his former club to give Ahly a 2-1 home victory Smouha as the Red Devils closed to within two points of Egyptian Premier League leaders Ismaily on Wednesday.
Playmaker Abdallah El-Said converted a penalty three minutes before the break to put Ahly in front but substitute Banou Diawara drew Smouha level with a brilliant header early in the second half.
However, Mohareb, who had been on the pitch for a few minutes, made the most of a rare Ahly appearance to net the winner against the club he left last summer five minutes past the hour mark.
The Cairo giants, who are eyeing a third consecutive league title, returned to winning ways after a sudden slump in form saw them suffer a 3-2 defeat by Maqassa before being held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Tanta.
They moved second in the table with 29 points, just two behind leaders Ismaily who played two matches more. Smouha are eighth on 19 points.
Ahly looked livelier than in the past few games but their makeshift defence of central pair Ayman Ashraf and Mohamed Naguib was repeatedly exposed by an adventurous Smouha side.
Ahly rediscovered some of their flair with a quick passing game in the first half, keeping Smouha's defenders on their toes.
Winger Moemen Zakareya forced a fine save from Smouha keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal with a stinging shot on 19 minutes but it was not until the 38th minute that Ahly had created their first-clear cut chance.
Winger Ahmed El-Sheikh, who is trying to establish himself as a regular starter, broke clear following a defence-splitting long ball from Zakareya but his poor attempted chip was easily collected by Abou-Gabal.
El-Said made amends with a powerful spot-kick into the top corner of the net after Ahly were awarded a penalty for a handball.
Smouha came out with all guns blazing in the second half, applying early pressure that resulted in a superb 50th-minute equaliser. Tarek Taha floated a deep cross and Burkinabe forward Diawara rose above Ahly's central defender Ayman Ashraf to send a delicate header into the far corner.
Ahly restored their advantage in the 65th minute after Mohareb scored with his first kick following a defensive lapse.
He ghosted behind a static defend to meet a low cross with a sliding effort that struck Abou-Gabal's hands and went into the net.
Smouha were unlucky not to restore parity in the 71st minute though when Ethiopian striker Oumed Oukri burst clear of his marker and hit the post with a fine shot.
Ahly held on in the latter stages to claim all three points and edge closer to the summit.
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