Dempo Sports Club rallied from behind and held Salgaocar Sports Club to a 1-1 draw in the penultimate round of the ONGC I-League football championship at Nehru Stadium in Margao on Sunday.
Salgaocar goalkeeper Markus Basumatari brought off at least four fine saves to deny Dempo full points.
Salgaocar, who started off well, took the lead in the 29th minute through Joe Rodrigues. But Dempo soon found their rhythm and restored parity in the 37th minute via Ranty Martins.
The draw puts Dempo on par with Churchill Brothers at 33 points each from 17 matches. Dempo, who have a better goal difference, now need to win their last match against Viva Kerala to lift the title.
Both the Goa outfits started on an attacking note.
Salgaocar, who held midfield superiority, probed more into the rival half with Fabio Dos Passos spearheading the attack.
They could have taken the lead in ninth minute but Shylo Malswantlunga's shot from inside the box, off a cross by Bevan D'Mello, was saved by Dempo keeper Abhijit Mondal.
Salgaocar's persistent efforts bore fruit when a move on the left flank saw Beevan D'Mello back pass to Rodrigues, who essayed a 30-yard shot that caught Mondal offguard and found the net.
The goal was a wake up call for Dempo, who regrouped and restored parity.
Johnny D'Cruz, who replaced injured Anthony Pereira, lobbed the ball to Ranty Martins. The latter uncorked an angular shot that gave no chance to keeper Basumatari.
The goal acted as a tonic for Dempo as they attacked with a series of raids. They had two opportunities to forge ahead but Basumatari stood like a rock and denied Martins and Edeh Chidi any chance to score.
The second half was fought on equal terms with play confined to midfield for most of the time.
Referee Dinesh Nair showed yellow cards to Salgaocar's Remus Gomes and Basumatari.
Dempo's acting coach Maurico Afonso was disappointed that his team could not win despite creating several scoring chances.
"What hurts me was that we could not capitalise on open chances. Now, we need to win against Viva Kerala which will be a tough match. There will be a lot of pressure on our boys.
Hope we overcome it and win the title," he said. Salgaocar have 11 points from 17 matches.