Churchill Brothers secured full points from their 18th round encounter against Air India on Thursday and placed themselves in a position to threaten Dempo SC in the race to the top in the I-League football championship.
Captain Roberto 'Beto' Silva scored on the second rebound following a free-kick in the 30th minute and that was enough for Churchill to record a 1-0 win at the Balewadi Sports Complex ground in Pune.
Churchill now have 33 points, one point behind East Bengal and seven off leaders Dempo, but they have a game in hand that could prove decisive towards the end of the league. Air India stay at 24 points from 18 matches.
Both teams missed the services of their first choice strikers -- Henry Antchouet and ND Opara for Churchill and Henry Ezeh and Takayuki Omi for Air India -- but still the Goans showed they had good reserves.
Air India, nonetheless, found some cracks in the Churchill defence and sneaked in, but the home team's finishing was not up to the mark. Sandeep Sangha sent at least four wayward shots from the top of the box after he was handed a golden chance in as early as in the ninth minute.
Churchill's goal was set up when Balan took a freekick that landed behind the wall and on the second rebound, Beto pounced on the chance and let the ball stroll into the post.
On resumption, Air India showed some urgency to find an equaliser but struggled in the absence of Takayuki and Henry.
Pailan Arrows hold Salgaocar to a goalless draw
Defending champions Salgaocar squandered points, failing to get past Pailan Arrows who pulled off a goalless draw at home, in their 18th round I-League return leg match, in Kolkata on Thursday.
In fact, it was advantage Arrows who could have earned their maiden victory this season in injury time when Ajay Singh almost scored but India international Karanjit Singh was alert and managed to keep the scores level.
The draw leaves Salgaocar with 30 points from 18 matches while the Arrows have eight from 16 outings.
The Karim Bencherifa-coached side started on aggressive note with Edeh Chidi and Ryuji Sueoka up front.
Francis Fernandes and Ryuji Seuoka combined well for Salgaocar to supply the ball to Ishfaq Ahmed but only to find the hands of Arrows goalkeeper Ravi Kumar in the 17th minute.
The second-half started like the first and there wasn't much tempo. A half chance fell to Salgoacar in the 78th minute of play when Chidi could not capitalise on the attack.