East Bengal rode on a second-half strike from Edeh Chidi to beat Salgaocar 1-0 and go four points clear of Dempo at the top of the table after their Round 8 I-League fixture in Kolkata on Tuesday.
In a match that was seen as a battle between English coaches Trevor Morgan (East Bengal) and David Booth, the home outfit struggled as the Goans put up a dogged defensive display.
Chidi, though, struck in the 66th minute, his right-footer taking a deflection off opponent Rocus Lamare's hand before finding the back of the net.
Unbeaten in eight matches, East Bengal have 20 points, while Salgaocar remain in the bottom half with 10.
East Bengal could have easily gone one-up before the break, but Orji Penn missed an easy chance in the 32nd minute when the Nigerian squandered a six-yard shot from Manandeep Singh's cross from the left.
Manandeep, who assisted Chidi upfront, had a poor day, missing two headers.
However, credit should also be given to the alert Salgaocar defence, led by Luciano Sabrosa.
Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh also stood tall, thwarting some good moves by East Bengal, but the one miss proved costly for the side, which on a transition phase under new coach Booth, who replaced Karim Bencherifa at the helm.