Zamalek temporarily moved five points clear of their nearest challengers in their bid to finish second in the Egyptian Premier League after a second-half header from Mostafa Mohamed gave them a narrow 1-0 win over El-Entag El-Harby on Sunday.
Mostafa powerfully headed home after a corner was flicked into his path two minutes past the hour mark as Zamalek made up for a disappointing 3-3 draw with Smouha in which they conceded a last-gasp goal.
This time, they held firm after taking the lead to avoid the kind of late lapses that have cost them on some games this season.
Zamalek, who are aiming to obtain the runners-up spot to qualify for next season's African Champions League along with runaway leaders Ahly, have 52 points, five clear of third-placed Arab Contractors, who still have a game in hand.
Pyramids, who also have a match in hand, lie third on 45 points. Entag's defeat saw them drop to ninth with 30 points.
Entag's watertight defence made life hard for Zamalek in a slow first half, but the hosts still managed to go close on two occasions.
Mostafa Mohamed's free header went just wide following an inviting cross from young right-back Ahmed Eid on 27 minutes and a curling effort from Moroccan winger Mohamed Ounajem went over the crossbar following some fine individual work from Mostafa Fathi 12 minutes later.
Despite Zamalek's relative control, Entag could have scored against the run of play on 61 minutes when Bassem Morsi, an ex-Zamalek striker, was found unmarked by a diagonal low cross after a neat counter attack, only to send a tame shot straight at keeper Mahmoud Gennesh.
But Zamalek finally ended Entag's resistance two minutes later, with central defender Mahmoud Hamdi superbly flicking a corner to Mostafa Mohamed, whose bullet header left the keeper with no chance to take his tally for the season to nine goals.
Entag's late push left them exposed at the back, with Zamalek squandering easy chances to kill off the game towards the end.
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