By Michael Church
TOKYO (Reuters) - Anderson Talisca scored twice to enable Guangzhou Evergrande to open up a two-point gap at the top of the Chinese Super League as Fabio Cannavaro's side beat defending champions Shanghai SIPG 2-0 on Saturday.
Evergrande moved on to 66 points and are now two points clear of Beijing Guoan with two games left while SIPG remained third a further two points adrift.
Guangzhou are attempting to reclaim the title they won for seven straight years before relinquishing their crown to SIPG last year, and Talisca gave Cannavaro's side the lead just before the interval.
Former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho surged through the heart of the Shanghai midfield before releasing his compatriot in the penalty area, from where Talisca clipped the ball past Yan Junling.
Talisca put the result beyond doubt deep into stoppage time when he slammed home a penalty to all but scupper SIPG's hopes of defending the title and leave Guangzhou with the chance of securing the trophy next week.
Victory for Evergrande over Hebei CFFC coupled with a loss for Beijing against Guangzhou R&F would see the title return to southern China with one round of matches to play.
"There have been many difficulties this season," said Cannavaro, who has been under pressure throughout the campaign. "Every player has contributed and it has not been easy and I emphasized in the locker room that we must play well in the two games that remain.
"I know Chinese football well and there will be pressure but I hope my players can perform like this until the end of the season."
Beijing had kept the pressure on with a 2-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua on Friday with Brazilian Renato Augusto scoring the winner just after the hour mark.
Elsewhere, bottom side Beijing Renhe lost 3-2 to Jiangsu Suning to confirm their relegation to China League One while Shenzhen FC moved closer to the trap door following their 3-0 defeat by Tianjin Teda.
Rafa Benitez's Dalian Yifang shared the points with Hebei CFFC in a thrilling 3-3 draw and Liu Yun scored twice in Wuhan Zall's 2-1 win over Guangzhou R&F.
Shandong Luneng notched up a 2-0 win over Chongqing Lifan and Henan Jianye ensured Tianjin Tianhai remain under threat of relegation with a 2-1 victory over the division's 14th-placed team.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ed Osmond)