Second-half goals from Badr Benoun and substitute Salah Mohsen gave an otherwise lethargic Ahly side a 2-0 victory over Ismaily in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday to close the gap on leaders Zamalek to three points.
After a dull first half in which Ismaily looked the better side, Ahly were awarded a timely penalty that Moroccan defender Benoun converted to break the deadlock on 72 minutes.
Ismaily poured forward in search of a late equaliser but the gaps they left cost them with two minutes remaining as Mohsen broke free to wrap up the win.
Ahly needed a victory to dispel the doubts that arose from some inconsistent displays lately, which saw them lose to Tanzania's Simba and draw with DR Congo's Vita Club in the African Champions League.
They lie second in the table with 27 points and will overtake Zamalek with a three-point lead if they win their two rescheduled games.
The woes of Ismaily continued as another loss left them third from bottom on 10 points, three adrift of safety.
Ismaily took the game to Ahly from the outset, with the visitors looking uncharacteristically disjointed.
The only chances in a drab first half fell to Ismaily striker Shokri Naguib, who headed just wide from a corner after 11 minutes and had a deflected low shot that narrowly missed the target in the 39th minute.
Ahly still looked sluggish in the second half but the penalty breathed some life into the game after forward Mohamed Sherif was tripped by Ismaily keeper Mohamed Magdi, with Benoun sending him the wrong way.
Mohsen, who is playing a bit-part role this season, ensured the win when he stole ahead of his marker to neatly control Marwan Mohsen's flick and go clear from the halfway line.
Magdi opted to remain rooted to the spot, giving Mohsen all the time he needed to plant a precise shot into the far corner.
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