Zamalek completed a successful weekend for Egyptian clubs in the CAF Champions League by defeating South African visitors Orlando Pirates 2-1 in matchday 4 on Sunday.
Title-holders Al-Ahly won by the same score 24 hours earlier against AC Leopards from Congo Brazzaville in another match played at scorching Red Sea watersports resort El-Gouna.
In another similarity, Zamalek supporters followed the example of Ahly fans and negotiated a partial lifting of the ban on spectators imposed owing to the fragile security situation in the country.
About 3,000 were in the El-Gouna stadium to see Ahmed Eid convert an early penalty for Zamalek, Lennox Bacela level before half-time and Salah Soliman head an early second-half winner.
It was a crucial first Group A win for the ‘White Knights’ after a 4-1 mauling in South Africa, and they trail leaders Pirates by three points with two rounds to come during September.
Pirates (plus five goal difference) and Ahly (minus one) have seven points each and Leopards (minus one) and Zamalek (minus three) have four points apiece.
If Zamalek defeat Ahly and Leopards overcome Pirates in the penultimate round, all four clubs will have seven points going into the final round a week later.
Pirates returned to the El-Gouna ‘sauna’ hoping to deliver a performance comparable to that which stunned Ahly 3-0 two matchdays ago.
But the Soweto club were behind after only six minutes when captain Lucky Lekgwathi fouled ‘Shikabala’ and Eid converted the penalty with a kick into the middle of the goal.
Diminutive South African goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, often the star for his club in Africa this year, was unusually shaky, especially when dearling with crosses.
Pirates equalised against the run of play on 33 minutes as Bacela raced through and his shot took a deflection as it beat recalled goalkeeper Abdul Wahed El-Sayed.
Veteran El-Sayed blocked another Bacela shot as the Buccaneers finished the half strongly with a slight breeze offering the only relief from the 38-degree celsius (100-degree fahrenheit) furnace.
Zamalek took the fight to Pirates again from the start of the second half and regained the lead on 51 minutes when Meyiwa missed a corner and Soliman scored via a powerful header.
Ahmed Gaafar had a great chance to double the advantage on the hour mark when he burst through, but his chip was too high with Meyiwa beaten.
Substitute Ndumiso Mabena could have equalised three minutes from time, but a close-range shot was pushed away by El-Sayed and Zamalek finished on top.
Coton Sport of Cameroon took a significant step toward reaching the semi-finals from Group B by drawing 1-1 at Recreativo Libolo of Angola.
Aguinaldo put the local club ahead midway through the opening half in Calulo, 320 kilometres south of Luanda, and Moussa Yedan levelled soon after with his first Champions League goal this season.
Esperance of Tunisia top the table with nine points, Coton have seven, Libolo four and Sewe San Pedro of Ivory Coast are bottom with just three.