Luiz Ramirez rose from the bench to snatch Corinthians a victory at Ceara that sent them two points clear of second-placed Vasco da Gama, who were held 1-1 away to Palmeiras, but the biggest story of the night was an exceptional performance from Fred. The 28-year-old striker scored four goals as Fluminense thrice recovered a deficit en route to a thrilling 5-4 victory that kept them five points off the pace with three games remaining.

Elsewhere, Internacional rose to seventh with a 1-0 win at home to Bahia, while Atletico Paranaense and America Mineiro lifted their survival chances by edging high-flying opponents. The former beat Sao Paulo 1-0 to climb to within a point of the safety places, while the latter effectively extinguished Botafogo’s title challenge with a 2-1 success. Finally, Avai and Cruzeiro finished up goalless, leaving the rock-bottom hosts all but relegated and their guests just a point above the drop zone.

Corinthians were outplayed for much of the game in Fortaleza. However, Ceara wasted a series of corners and chances, and ten minutes from time they were punished. Ramirez hadn’t been on the field long, but the 27-year-old Peruvian sailed past his marker down the left and struck the ball across goalkeeper Fernando Henrique and into the bottom of his net.

Ceara’s misery was compounded when Fabricio was sent off for a second bookable offence five minutes from time. The loss dropped Dimas Filgueiras’s team one place to third-bottom.

Vasco made a dream start at Palmeiras, the arch-rivals of Corinthians, with centre-back Dede continuing his marvellous goalscoring form by heading them into a fourth-minute lead. However, Luan bundled home a 62nd-minute leveller and despite pressure from the visitors, 1-1 is how it remained.

Fred wows the Engenhao
Fluminense began Round 35 of 38 five points off the pace and, therefore, requiring victory over Gremio to realistically keep their trophy aspirations intact. Abel Braga’s side nevertheless found themselves losing on 16 minutes and 2-1 down at half-time.

Fred restored parity in splendid fashion eight minutes after the restart, though, masterfully controlling a long ball into the area from Deco and instantly firing the ball home with power. Soon after, Rafael Sobis put Flu ahead, but two goals in the space of two minutes - a Brandao header preceding a sublime curler from Adilson - put O Tricolor Gaúcho 4-3 up with less than a quarter-hour remaining.

The night, though, was to belong to Fluminense and, in particular, Fred. The Brazil international scored his and his side’s third equaliser from the spot on 80 minutes, before firing the Rio de Janeiro outfit into a 5-4 lead.

There was still time for Brandao to reduce Gremio to ten men, and for his team-mate Douglas to crash a sublime free-kick against the crossbar, but Fluminense ultimately held on for a sensational victory.

The hat-trick elevated Fred second on the scoring chart on 17 goals, six shy of Santos sharpshooter Borges.