Yang Liyu's added-time goal kept Guangzhou Evergrande within touching distance of leaders Beijing Guoan as they claimed a 2-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday.
Former Inter Milan midfielder Fredy Guarin put Shenhua in front from the penalty spot eight minutes after half-time before China international Gao Lin levelled five minutes later.
The match at a rain-lashed Tianhe Stadium looked destined to end with the points shared, only for Yang to head home Zhang Linpeng's centre a minute into added time to earn Evergrande a win that kept them three points behind Beijing with a game in hand.
"It was a great win for our unity and determination," coach Fabio Cannavaro said. "Before this game I told you it would be difficult but, fortunately, we took the three points in the end.
"The fans want us to win by four or five in every game, but the important thing is we are still in with the top teams."
Beijing Guoan retained their position at the top with a 2-1 win over Chongqing Lifan that moved them on to 45 points from 21 games, and Shanghai SIPG remained in second place despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Hebei China Fortune.
Shandong Luneng's title challenge suffered a blow with a 4-3 loss against Dalian Yifang as Jin Qiang scored the winner four minutes from time.
The defeat, Shandong's second in a row, left them points off top spot.
Jiangsu Suning's hopes of claiming the title also receded with their third draw in four games as they were held 1-1 by Tianjin Quanjian, and Henan Jianye drew 1-1 with Changchun Yatai.
Eran Zahavi was on target as Guangzhou R&F beat Tianjin Teda 2-0 to move up to sixth in the standings, and Guizhou Zhicheng remained rooted to the bottom of the table despite sharing the points with Beijing Renhe in a 1-1 draw.