Orlando Pirates of South Africa ground out a 1-0 win over Hearts of Oak of Ghana on Sunday to claim their first Group B success in the African Champions League.
The only goal of an uncompromising clash came after 57 minutes at Len Clay Stadium in the central town when Lebo Mbele raced through the middle and his delicate chip over goalkeeper Mohammed Saani bounced into the net.
Victory lifted the Buccaneers to second place with six points, two less than ASEC of Ivory Coast, who forced a 0-0 draw at Enyimba of Nigeria earlier in the day.
Enyimba are also in contention for the two semi-finals berths with five points while a third loss in four outings leaves 2000 African Champions League winners Hearts with no chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
ASEC play Pirates (home) and Hearts (away) during September in their remaining fixtures while the South Africans can clinch a place in the semi-finals provided they beat Enyimba in Johannesburg in the final round.
Defending champions Al-Ahly of Egypt and surprise packets Club Sportif Sfaxien of Tunisia are the likely qualifiers from the other group for the penultimate phase of the $3.5m competition.
Pirates, who appeared to have blown any hope of progressing when held 0-0 at home by Hearts two weeks ago, began promisingly on a warm, clear afternoon and defender Lucky Lekgwathi had a free kick tipped on to the crossbar by Saani.
Seeking their first victory
Daniel Quaye went close at the other end in a lively opening spell with a low shot that flew wide of Pirates goalkeeper Francis Chansa only to finish off target.
Both clubs were seeking their first victory in the mini-league and with a draw of no value the emphasis was on attack, leading to plenty of excitement for Ghanaian supporters.
Chansa, who loves nothing more than making a simple save seem difficult, demonstrated his bravery near half-time as he flung himself across a crowded goalmouth to block a fierce free kick.
Hearts continued to press forward in the second half and a cross from impressive striker Joe Louis triggered panic in the Pirates defence before Chansa came to the rescue again.
Mbele, a burly striker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly broke the deadlock with a close-range shot that Saani did well to push away at the expense of a corner.
Hyperactive Chansa stopped Mireku Amankwa after the Ghanaian created space inside the penalty area before Mbele struck the decisive blow as three defenders closed in.
Hearts virtually owned the ball in the final 30 minutes and displayed some superb dribbling to create openings on the edge of the penaly area only to be frustrated by wild finishing.
A close-range free kick with four minutes left offered hope of salvaging a point, but Charles Vardis fired harmlessly wide and the Ghanaians face the grim prospect of finishing without a win.