A first-half volley from Mahmoud Kahraba earned Zamalek a narrow advantage in the first leg of the African Confederation Cup semi-final as they beat Tunisia's Etoile Sahel in Alexandria on Sunday.
The 25-year-old netted what proved to be the winner nine minutes before the break with a fine individual effort, with Zamalek surviving several scares in the second period to gain the upper hand.
They will be looking to protect their slender advantage when they meet Etoile in the second leg in Sousse next week as they chase their first ever Confederation Cup title.
Both sides also met in the semi-finals of the 2015 Confederation Cup, with Etoile going through with a 5-4 aggregate win in an exciting two-legged duel.
Zamalek had territorial dominance in the first half but Etoile's backline was barely troubled for long spells, with the hosts' repeated long balls easily cleared by the towering defenders.
Zied Boughattas sent a free header wide early on for Etoile and Zamalek had a couple of half-chances to break the deadlock in a largely cautious half.
The breakthrough came in the 36th minute after Zamalek's lone striker Omar El-Said robbed veteran forward Yassine Chikhaoui on the left before pulling the ball back to Kahraba.
The talented winger flicked it over with his right foot before sending a left-foot volley into the corner of the net to spark wild celebrations in the stands.
Defensive midfielder Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz could have made it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime, only to miss the target with a low shot after creating space for himself on the edge of the area.
Zamalek were pegged back in the second half as Etoile pressed hard for an equalizer.
Iheb Msakni stuck out a leg to connect with a through ball behind the defence but he could only stab it wide in the 53rd minute before wasting another chance nine minutes later, with his header tipped over by keeper Mamoud Gennesh.
The best chance of the game fell to the disappointing Yassine Chikhaoui, who somehow mis-hit his effort when well-placed to score after another defence-splitting pass found him in the 72nd minute.
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