Churchill Brothers took a giant step towards regaining the I-League title after scoring a 2-1 victory over Pune FC in a 23rd round I-League clash at Tilak Maidan in Goa on Friday.
After a barren opening session, Churchill scored through Bineesh Balan (58th) and Sunil Chhetri (63rd) while Pune FC pulled one back through substitute Boima Karpeh (90th).
With Friday's win, Churchill are now on 45 points and a five-point lead at the top of the table with four matches left to be played.
Pune FC, who were also nursing title ambitions, were left to ponder on their defensive frailties as both goals they conceded resulted from mistakes at the backline.
Both teams were understandably nervous at the start and played extremely safe. It were the hosts, though, who created the better chances as Henri Arnaud, in the 10th minute, laid a ball for Afghanistan striker Balal Arezou who could not guide it into the goal.
Sunil Chhetri then fed Henri but the Gabonese striker delayed, allowing a rival defender to dispossess him.
Pune FC did not have any clear chances in the first session with James Moga left stranded.
Much of the blame for Churchill's lead should be laid on goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly whose poor goal-kick saw Henri trap the ball and lay it for substitute Bineesh Balan who showed remarkable poise to finish from a narrow angle in the 57th minute.
Churchill made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute when another defensive mistake allowed Chhetri the space to curl a brilliant left-footer into the top corner of the net.
Just at the stroke of regulation time, Boima Karpeh pulled one back for Pune FC, providing for a nervy five minutes in the end.