Sunil Chettri scored a splendid brace as Dempo Sports Club registered a 3-1 victory over Mohun Bagan in a round 13 I-League match at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda, Goa, on Tuesday.
Dempo struggled in a goalless first session but turned on the heat after resumption, with substitute Nicholau Borges opening the scoring.
Though Mohun Bagan were quick to restore parity through Seuoka Ryuji, the nimble-footed Chettri ended his goal-scoring drought with two superb strikes in the closing stages to keep Dempo in pole position.
Dempo could not strike up a rhythm early as Mohun Bagan put every player behind the ball, the only exception being Brazilian striker Jose Ramirez Baretto.
The local giants were unable to penetrate and the first real chance came for the visitors when Baretto, receiving a fine pass from James Singh in the box, shot at the target but the ball struck the side post of Dempo 'keeper Laxmkant Katimani.
The change of ends saw a good tussle between the two title contenders but Dempo were patient and kept pressure on their rivals.
The hosts were able to get the vital breakthrough in the 57th minute as a Valeriano Rebello free-kick deceived the rival defence and winger Nicholau Borges timed his run perfectly to sweep the ball past an agile Shilton Paul in goal.
However, the local side could not keep the lead for long, as within three minutes James Singh was allowed too much leeway to supply a teasing cross inside the box, where Dempo defenders John Dias as well as Valeriano Rebello failed to intercept allowing Seouka Ruyji to head in past Katimani to silence the crowd.
The sudden equalizer brought out the best from the Goan outfit with substitute Clifton Gonsalves finding easy gaps in the rival rearguard.
Dempo regained their lead in the 78th minute as Chettri powered a strong header past Shilton after Anthony Pereira fired in one of his trademarks swinging cross from the right flank.
Chettri provided the icing on the cake five minute before the end when Clifton Gonsalves, with a clever dodge, got easily past rival stopper Sheik Azim for Chettri to find the net with an angular drive.