Defending champions Al Ahly scored two goals within a minute in the second half as they survived a scare from Al Merrikh in Cairo to win 3-1 and put their hopes of defending their TotalEnergies CAF Champions League title squarely on course.
Ahly had gone ahead through Percy Tau’s first-half strike but Merrikh drew level in the second half through Ramadan Agab.
But, Ahly, who were playing as the away team in Cairo, scored in the 72nd and 73rd minutes through Mohamed Sherif and Ahmed Abdelkader to bag all three points.
The win now takes the Red Devils to seven points with one match remaining, what looks a likely finale against another Sudanese side, Al Hilal. Merrikh meanwhile lost their third successive match and see their quarterfinal hopes diminished.
Having suffered back-to-back defeats against Mamelodi Sundowns, Ahly were under pressure to deliver a win and retain their hopes.
They were off to a flyer and got a 19th-minute lead when Tau capitalised on a poor defensive header from Hamza Dawood before striking a low shot into the net. The holders held on to this lead till halftime.
In the second half, Ahly came back stronger and were denied by the bar in the 52nd minute when Agab curled the ball onto the woodwork after picking up a cross from Tony Edjomariegwe.
The striker however got his much-desired goal on the hour mark when he pounced on the ball after keeper Mohamed Elshenawy punched a shot from Hussien Nooh Mohamed right into his path.
But Ahly quickly regrouped and went back into the lead in the 72nd minute when Sheriff finished off Ali Maaloul’s cross with a first time shot.
Immediately after the restart, substitute Abdelkader who had only spent 10 minutes on the pitch, pickpocketed a Merrikh defender of the ball at the edge of the box before dribbling in and scoring with a delightful finish.
The Egyptian giants held on to the lead and the three points to boost their bid for a ticket into the quarterfinals.