A last-gasp penalty from defender Mahmoud Alaa, his second of the night, earned Zamalek a thrilling 4-3 victory over an impressive Gouna side in an end-to-end Egyptian Premier League affair on Sunday.
Alaa sent the keeper the wrong way three minutes into stoppage time to settle a topsy-turvy game that must have had viewers on their feet, with Zamalek maintaining their advantage over Pyramids FC in a tight race to finish second.
Zambian striker Walter Bwalya, who kept Zamalek defenders on their toes with his tireless runs and jumps, gave Gouna the lead after almost quarter an hour before winger Ahmed Zizo equalised with a clever free kick shortly before the interval.
Zamalek looked to be cruising to a win when a goal from Youssef Ibrahim and a penalty from Alaa gave them a 3-1 lead, only for Gouna to score twice in the space of four minutes through Bwalya and Louai Wael as the Cairo giants' defence buckled under pressure.
But Zamalek had the last word after a VAR review, with the referee adjudging Gouna's Cameroonian defender Joseph Ngwem to have felled Abdallah Gomaa, although television replays were inconclusive as to whether there was a contact.
The White Knights secured an important win under the watchful eye of new coach Jaime Pacheco, who watched the game from the stands following his arrival in Cairo in the late hours of Saturday. He will take over from caretaker coach Tarek Yehia in their next game.
Zamalek remained second in the table with 58 points, four ahead of Pyramids, who can close the gap to one point again if they beat Ittihad of Alexandria on Tuesday. The runners-up spot earns qualification for next year's African Champions League.
Zamalek had the better of the early exchanges, with their swift moves causing menace to Gouna. Congolese striker Kabongo Kasongo, who made a rare start, intercepted a wayward pass after two minutes but his shot was blocked by keeper Islam Tarek.
However, it was Gouna who went ahead on 14 minutes as Bwalya, a constant threat throughout, outjumped Mahmoud Alaa to send a superb glancing header into the top corner following a free kick from the right.
Zamalek then pressed forward and laid siege to Gouna's area, with Kasongo going close again after a fine passing move involving Moroccan winger Achraf Bencharki.
They leveled the score on 30 minutes from an angled set piece though, with Zizo catching Tarek off-guard with a smart free kick that nestled into the near corner as the keeper moved the other way to catch an expected cross.
But Zamalek were then vulnerable to repeated fast breaks from a pacy Gouna side, who were unlucky not to restore their advantage on several occasions.
Bwalya went close with another header, Amr Abdel-Fattah had a goal-bound shot blocked by a defender and Zamalek left-back Abdallah Gomaa made a goal-line clearance to deny a certain goal.
In the 56th minute, Bencharki masterminded Zamalek's second goal, weaving his way past Ngwem after flicking the ball past him before his low cross rebounded off a defender and fell to Ibrahim for an easy tap-in.
The lively Zizo was tripped 10 minutes later as Zamalek were awarded a penalty that Alaa tucked away but Gouna's never-say-die attitude saw them punish their illustrious opponents for some woeful defending in aerial duels.
Bwalya narrowed the deficit on 75 minutes when he sneaked between two defenders to head a chipped pass past them before firing a low shot into the net.
Wael equalised three minutes later, heading in off the post after a free kick was floated from almost the halfway line.
Late drama then unfolded as Zamalek snatched a precious victory in their bid to finish second.
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