Ahly's worst fears of finishing a season without a major trophy for the first time in more than a decade could be realised after another poor showing saw them lose 1-0 to Orlando Pirates in Johannesburg in the first leg of the African Confederation Cup semi final on Saturday.
Thamsanqa Gabuza made the most of some poor marking from central defender Mohamed Naguib to notch what proved to be the winner after eight minutes, compounding the troubles of a side which was hoping to recover from a 2-0 loss to Cairo rivals Zamalek in the Egypt Cup final last week.
Ahly, who lost the league and cup to bitter foes Zamalek, will still have a chance to overturn the narrow deficit and continue their bid towards a second straight Confederation Cup title when they host Pirates in the second leg next week.
Zamalek face Tunisia's Etoile Sahel away from home in the other semi-final of Africa's secondary club competition on Sunday.
The Pirates needed eight minutes to send the home fans into raptures when Kermit Erasmus sped down the left and whipped in a cross for Gabuza who held off Mohamed Naguib and flicked home with the outside of his right foot.
Ahly's inexperienced right-back Mohamed Hani struggled to contain a wave of raids down the flank as the Pirates realized that this was the weakest aspect of the visitors' defensive game.
However, Ahly had more of the possession afterwards although they found it difficult to carve out openings, with the Pirates appearing more solid at the back after they were humiliated in a 4-1 defeat by Zamalek in Cairo in their last group-stage game.
Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy pulled off a superb one-handed save to palm away a curling free kick from Mpho Makola after 20 minutes before his side came close to restoring parity 10 minutes later when a powerful, angled shot from Moemen Zakareya was tipped onto the post by keeper Felipe Ovono.
The second-half introduction of burly striker Malick Evouna, a summer arrival and Ahly's record signing, injected zeal upfront but little service was provided to Evouna and his strike partner John Antwi from the sluggish midfield.
The Pirates held on comfortably apart from an Evouna effort that saw him skip past his marker in a one-on-one before his attempted shot was thwarted by a sliding tackle from the same defender.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)