Rami Rabia's thumping volley three minutes from time gave an otherwise below-par Ahly a 1-0 victory over Arab Contractors that moved them top of Group A as they edged closer to securing a place in the final phase of the Egyptian Premier League.
The defender's sublime effort helped Ahly end the resistance of Contractors and handed them a third successive victory as the Red Devils continue their recovery from a poor run despite not really impressing.
They are on top of the group with 29 points, ahead of second-placed Smouha on goal difference but the latter still have a game in hand. Ittihad of Alexandria are third with 24 points, one ahead of Contractors with five matches remaining.
The top two in Groups A and B will qualify for a four-team mini-league phase to determine the winner.
A toothless Ahly frontline, missing injured striker Amr Gamal, was easily contained by Contractors' defence in a tasteless first half.
Abdallah El-Said, Ahly's best performer during the previous two games in which he scored three goals, produced a subdued display as the Cairo giants, who are chasing an eighth successive league title, failed to create a single goal-scoring opportunity.
The only first-half chance fell to Contractors, with Mohamed Rezk's curling free-kick superbly denied by the outstretched hands of Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy on the stroke of halftime.
The second half was slightly different.
The introduction of forward El-Sayed Hamdi relatively improved Ahly, with the hosts at least creating two genuine chances which were wasted by striker Ahmed Raouf, who had yet to establish himself after joining from ENPPI last January.
His powerful near-post header struck the bar and his follow-up effort missed the target on 69 minutes and a glaring miss followed when he broke clear with eight minutes remaining but dragged his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Rabia made amends in superb fashion. He fed Hamdi on the edge of the area and neatly controlled the return, back-heeled pass before rifling a dipping right-foot volley that left the keeper with no chance.
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