Shandong Luneng ended a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Guangzhou R&F on Sunday that keeps alive their hopes of landing a first Chinese Super League title since 2010.
Graziano Pelle and Jin Jingdao scored the goals that earned Shandong their first win in four matches and ensured the four-time champions remain within touching distance of leaders Shanghai SIPG with eight games remaining.
"This is the kind of game where you feel the pressure," said coach Li Xiaopeng, who took over at the start of the season. "Thanks to the players for their effort. Everyone was striving to win and it has put us on a good path for the final phase of the league."
Pelle put Shandong in front after just 10 minutes with a side-foot volley from eight yards out and Jin doubled the lead eight minutes after the restart with a close-range finish.
Renatinho pulled one back for R&F on the hour mark, but it was not enough to spark them into mounting a successful comeback.
Shandong trail Shanghai SIPG by five points after they returned to the summit on Friday.
SIPG secured an emphatic 5-2 thrashing of Tianjin Teda that allowed them to capitalise on Beijing Guoan's 1-0 loss to defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Evergrande's win, courtesy of a late goal from on-loan striker Anderson Talisca, means one point separates the top three sides, with SIPG leading on 46 points and Guangzhou and Beijing on 45.
SIPG and Evergrande have played one game fewer than the rest of the teams in the league after their meeting earlier in the season was postponed because of a typhoon, and their rescheduled game will be staged in Shanghai on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, Hebei China Fortune continued their upswing in fortunes with a 2-0 win over Beijing Renhe that moved them up to sixth, six points adrift of fifth-place Jiangsu Suning, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Shanghai Shenhua.
Dalian Yifang continued their climb away from relegation trouble with a 1-0 win over Asian Champions League quarterfinalists Tianjin Quanjian. Bottom side Guizhou Zhicheng's troubles deepened as a result of a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Changchun Yatai.
Chongqing Lifan, meanwhile, had a solitary goal from Alan Kardec to thank for pulling them out of the relegation zone as they defeated Henan Jianye 1-0 move up into 14th place.