Substitute Yu Hanchao scored the winner four minutes from time as Guangzhou Evergrande fought back to hand Shanghai Shenhua a 3-2 defeat that moves the six-time champions three points clear at the Chinese Super League summit.
Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho gave Guangzhou the lead after 24 minutes with a finish from close range before Fredy Guarin’s free kick squirmed under Zeng Cheng to level the scores just five minutes later.
Another Guarin free kick was fumbled by Zeng on the stroke of half-time allowing Obafemi Martins to strike from the tightest of angles as Shenhua looked set to record a fourth straight win in all competitions since losing Carlos Tevez to a calf injury.
The introduction of Yu, however, swung the game back in Guangzhou’s favour with the substitute seeing his header turned over his own line by Shenhua defender Li Jianbin in the 71st minute before Yu claimed the winner with a scuffed shot after the Shanghai defence failed to clear.
“Both sides were strong and today both played beyond their best and showed extraordinary desire to win,” said Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari after seeing his team move three points ahead of Guangzhou R&F, who travel to face Shandong Luneng on Sunday.
“I’m happy we have played well and that in the end we were the winning side.
“I don’t want to praise individual players because I want to praise every one on the team. Yu was a substitute because CSL’s regulations say we must have one player who is under 23, but he is one of my best players and is a core player.”
Alex Teixeira, meanwhile, salvaged a point for Jiangsu Suning as Choi Yong-soo’s side continue to look for their first win of the season after drawing 1-1 with Yanbian Funde.
Bubacar Trawally gave Yanbian the lead in the 14th minute, but Teixeira levelled in the 74th minute to leave last year’s Chinese Super League and Chinese FA Cup runners-up without a win after eight games in the league campaign.
The draw, however, lifted Jiangsu off the bottom of the standings, with the point gained moving them above Henan Jianye, who meet Chongqing Lifan on Saturday.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch