Anderson Talisca scored twice to put Guangzhou Evergrande on the verge of the Chinese Super League title on Saturday -- and perhaps help keep coach Fabio Cannavaro in a job.
The Brazilian scored a goal in each half in an ill-tempered 2-0 home win over title rivals and reigning champions Shanghai SIPG.
With two rounds of matches left, Evergrande are top of the CSL on 66 points with Beijing Guoan second on 64 and SIPG on 62.
The 46-year-old Cannavaro is under fierce pressure to deliver the domestic title after he was temporarily moved aside last month following a poor run of form.
The Italian made a surprise return earlier this month but his position remains uncertain despite this critical win, which left SIPG all but out of the title race.
"Absent for three and a half months due to injury, I have been struggling to regain my form," the 25-year-old Talisca, formerly of Benfica, said.
"Today I feel like I have got myself back. Being able to score twice and help the team win the match, I am very happy."
The challenges flew in at Evergrande's Tianhe Stadium.
Evergrande's Zhong Yihao and SIPG defender Shi Ke were booked within four minutes of one another, the latter for going in hard on Talisca with a scissor-kick action.
Another Brazilian, SIPG's 60-million-euro attacking midfielder Oscar, was on the end of two illegal challenges that left him on the turf.
Evergrande went ahead a minute before the break when former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho played in his fellow Brazilian Talisca.
The attacking midfielder poked the ball into the bottom corner with a smart finish.
SIPG coach Vitor Pereira threw on former West Ham United forward Marko Arnautovic at half-time, knowing that defeat could be fatal.
Cannavaro's seven-time champions thought they had gone 2-0 up on 50 minutes, but Paulinho's goal was chalked off by the video assistant referee (VAR) for a foul on SIPG captain Hulk in the build-up.
Cannavaro, Italy's World Cup-winning captain in 2006, was left furious.
Arnautovic went into the referee's book as the visitors pushed for an equaliser, but SIPG were open at the back and Talisca was denied by goalkeeper Yan Junling.
Talisca slotted in a penalty in the 95th-minute after he was fouled by Oscar, with VAR playing a pivotal role in awarding the spot-kick.
Oscar and Hulk were both yellow-carded in injury time as SIPG's emotions boiled over.