A fine brace by medio Climax Lawrence helped Dempo to come from behind and edge out JCT Mills, Phagwara 2-1 in their 14th round ONGC I-League championship match played at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda on Thursday.
Climax scored the goals in the 43rd and 89th minutes, while the lone goal for JCT came through Sunil Chetri in the 18th minute. Climax was later adjudged the man of the match for his fine performance.
Dempo could have romped home with a much bigger margin, but rival goal-keeper Karanjit Singh brought off at least three excellent saves, especially in the second half.
With this win, Dempo maintained their position at the top of the table with 30 points from 14 outings. JCT Mills remained on the same third spot with 25 points.
Dempo, well aware that they needed a win to defend the title, made an aggressive start and came up with a couple of good moves in the first 15 minutes of play.
But, on both the occasions, Nicolas Borgues failed to capitalise. In the 15th minute of the first half, Sameer Naik initiated a move and passed to Anthony Pereira who, in quick succession, passed the ball to better-placed Borgues whose feeble shot went waste.
The Millmen shot into the lead in the 18th minute of the first half through Sunil Chetri, whose header found the net off a floating cross-pass from Baljit Singh Saini. The goal was a result of defense lapse.
Stung by an early debacle, Dempo swung into action and raided the rival citadel on a number of occasions with medios Nascimento Silveira, Climax and Pereira combining well and creating good moves for the Nigerian duo forwards, Ranty Martin and Edeh Chidi.
But both were not quick in grasping the advantages before them as they were tightly marked by JCT defender Julius Irabor Akpele.
Two minutes before the breather, Dempo restored the parity through medio Climax, who neatly headed home a floating cross-pass given by Pereira from the right flank to make it 1-1 at half time.
Inspired by an equaliser, Dempo continued to attack vigorously and came up with three splendid opportunites in the 52nd, 64th and 72nd minutes, but rival goal-keeper Karanjit, who gave a superb display, brought off brilliant saves.
Karanjit warded off a 25-yarder from Edeh Chidi in the 52nd minute. In the 64th minute, Martin, after collecing a pass from John Dias, unleashed a shot which was again saved by Karanjit.
In the 72nd minute, the Millmen's goal-keeper brought off a third good save following a header by Borgues from a flag kick by Pereira.
Dempo scored the winning goal in the 89th minute through Climax Lawrence off a well-measured pass from Martin. This time, Karanjit could not prevent the damage and Dempo romped home 2-1.