Cairo giants Zamalek secured their first Champions League group-stage win since 2008 after a 2-1 home victory over South Africa's Orlando Pirates on Sunday threw the race for the two semi-final spots wide open.
Ahmed Eid converted an early penalty to put Zamalek in front but Lennox Bacela, who wreaked havoc in the reverse fixture two weeks ago to help Pirates crush the White Knights 4-1, leveled the score on 33 minutes after a fine individual effort.
Defender Salah Soliman headed home early in the second half to restore Zamalek's advantage and the hosts survived a late onslaught to claim a precious win, their first in the group stage since they beat Dynamos Harare of Zimbabwe five years ago.
It is also their first victory under new coach Helmi Toulan, under whom Zamalek made a poor start to their Group A campaign, drawing with arch-rivals Ahly before slumping to two consecutive defeats by Congo's Leopards and Orlando Pirates.
They have four points, on level with Leopards and three behind joint leaders Ahly and Pirates with two matches remaining.
Zamalek needed six minutes to open the scoring when winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek 'Shikabala' was tripped inside the area and playmaker Eid made no mistake from the spot, sending Senzo Meyiwa the wrong way.
Despite taking the lead, Zamalek struggled to carve out goal-scoring opportunities, lacking the spark often provided by attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim, who started on the bench for the second consecutive match.
They were also vulnerable at the back, giving Pirates forwards too much space to operate freely.
Zamalek's defensive shortcomings, which were ruthlessly exposed in Johannesburg, haunted them again on 33 minutes.
The onrushing Bacela skipped past Zamalek's central defender Salah Soliman before running unopposed towards the area to fire a low shot that went in at the near post afet leaving goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed stranded.
Zamalek restored their advantage in the 51st minute when a corner eluded Meyiwa and found Soliman to nod in at the far post.
Lone striker Ahmed Gaafar squandered a golden opportunity to extend the gap nine minutes later when he broke free but his subsequent curling shot went over the crossbar.
Pirates had the upper hand in the latter stages but failed to find the breakthrough, leaving the four Group A with a chance to book a last-four berth.
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