-minute header from substitute striker Amr Gamal gave Ahly a vital 1-0 Egyptian league victory against Wadi Degla at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium on Thursday.
After struggling long to overcome Degla's deep defending especially in the second half, Gamal provided the winner with a header from inside the box following a cross from Tunisia left-back Ali Maaloul.
Egypt keeper Essam El-Hadary was supposed to stand between the posts for Degla against his former club, only for a training ground scuffle with understudy keeper Khaled Walid a day before the game saw the latter play instead.
The 44-year-old keeper El-Hadary, who had an impressive Cup of Nations campaign with Egypt, was suspended as a result and was transfer-listed by his club.
The win cemented Ahly's position on top of the Egyptian league table with 52 points, 11 ahead of second-placed Maqassa who played two games less.
Wadi Degla, who are managed by ex-Zamalek boss Mido, lie eighth on 25 points as their six-match unbeaten streak came to an end.
From the opening stages, Wadi Degla signaled they are were going to be pushovers, pressing Ahly from advanced positions early on.
Ahly were mainly limited to only half-chances in the opening period, with skipper Hossam Ghaly heading wide from a corner in the 19th minute.
Degla, however, showed determination to push forward and threaten Sherif Ekramy's goal, with an unmarked Mohamed Helal missing a one-on-one chance from close range on the half-hour mark.
Ekramy was then called into action seven minutes later, this time diving to his right to deny Mostafa Talaat's header as Degla continued to signal threat.
But the Reds could have ended the first half taking the lead when Moemen Zakareya's first-time effort from inside the area from Maaloul's cross narrowly went high over on the stroke of half-time.
Gamal wins the game
With Degla manager Mido opting to defend deep after the break, it took defending champions Ahly only five minutes to pose threat through Egypt playmaker Abdallah El-Said who saw a powerful strike parried by keeper Walid.
Just a minute later, the in-form Maaloul had a free kick thwarted by the woodwork, with Degla obviously now needing much effort to resist the opponents' attacks.
After spending a long spell unable to threaten the Degla goal, substitute Walid Soliman received the ball in space in front of the box before seeing his strike go wide in the 67th minute.
Another sub in Amr Gamal came close but was unlucky as his header hit the post following a blunder by Degla keeper Walid six minutes later.
Emad Meteb could have well scored his second goal in his second game running as a second-half sub, but keeper Walid came out to thwart the veteran hitman in time.
But it was strike partner Gamal who eventually won the game for Ahly with a header to give his side all three points.
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