Dempo Sports Club took a major step towards winning the I-League when they got the better of Churchill Brothers 4-2 in an exciting 23rd round match at the Nehru Stadium, in Fatorda, Goa, on Wednesday.
The victory enabled Dempo consolidate their position atop the table with 50 points from 23 matches, while Churchill remain on 41 from 23 matches.
In a match where fortunes fluctuated from one end to the other, Dempo did well to snatch full points after Churchill had briefly threatened to steal the thunder from right under their nose.
Clifford Miranda gave Dempo a 37th minute lead but Churchill fought back to level scores just before the change of ends, thanks to a strike from their Brazilian midfielder Robert Mendes Silva.
The second goal saw fortunes fluctuate as Roberto Mendes struck again to put Churchill ahead for the first time in the match.
Dempo's Nigerian strikers Ranti Martins and Koko Sakibo then turned the match on its head with delightful strikes inside the first hour.
Rowilson Rodrigues scored the fourth goal for Dempo five minutes from close.
Any hopes of a Churchill comeback evaporated when Roberto was booked for a second offence and consequently had to leave the field, leaving Churchill with a tough task, and a player short.
The win gave Dempo a seven point advantage over second-placed Pune FC and with just three matches left to be played, this could prove decisive.
Air India frustrate Prayag United
Air India, Mumbai, played second fiddle to Prayag United SC but the resolute airmen spoiled the Kolkata outfit's party after the two teams played a goalless draw at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium in Pune.
The draw took Prayag to 39 points from 24 matches while Air India moved to 29 points from 24.
Prayag's Brazilian striker Josimar da Silva made some good raids on Air India goal, but he couldn't get the ball into the net. His best chance came in the 85th minute when a James Singh's corner kick found him in the clear but his header sailed over.
Prayag did attack relentless but the Air India defence held fort. In the 11th minute, James couldn't direct his freekick into the net from just outside the box.
Seven minutes later Air India moved up with Manjit Singh, Royston D'Souza and Manandeep Singh taking the ball right into the Prayag box only to lose control at the end.
On the counter-attack, Prayag earned free-kick 10 yards from the box, but again James Singh's try went wide.
Lamine Tamba was adjudged the Man-of-the-match.