Federation Cup champions Dempo's hopes of winning the National Football League suffered a huge setback after they were beaten by defending champions East Bengal 2-1 in a 21st round match in Kolkata on Monday.
The victory swelled East Bengal's tally to 43 points, one less than second-placed Dempo, and kept them in the hunt for the title.
With only the final round of matches left, Sporting Clube de Goa lead the league table with 45 points. East Bengal are placed third.
Today's result kept Sporting, Dempo and East Bengal in the title race (see league table), which will be decided on May 20 when Dempo take on Tollygunge Agragami in Goa, East Bengal clash with another Goan club, Vasco, in Kolkata, and Sporting play Mahindra United in the another match in Goa.
East Bengal went into the lead in the 19th minute through Earnest Jeremiah following a misunderstanding in the Dempo defence. Jeremiah capitalised on a weak back pass by Stanley Colaco, sidestepped defender Majjek Bolajy and placed the ball past Dempo custodian Satish Kumar
Rahim Nabi increased the lead in the 31st minute connecting home a cross from the right. This goal too was the result of a mix-up in the Dempo defence.
Climax Lawrence essayed a low centre from the right which a host of Dempo defenders failed to intercept. Nabi ran in from the left unchecked and drove the ball home.
Dempo, who had beaten East Bengal 3-2 in the first leg, reduced the margin seven minutes from the end through a penalty, scored by Clifford Miranda, after Ranty Martins was tripped by M Suresh inside the box.