Honduran striker Julio Cesar de Leon scored late in the second half as Shandong Luneng drew 1-1 with Nanchang Bayi today and secured the Chinese Super League title.
Chen Zhizhao put the hosts ahead on the hour mark at Nanchang Bayi Stadium before substitute de Leon tapped in the equaliser 15 minutes before time, handing Shandong their fourth domestic title with two rounds to spare.
The visitors were first to threaten after just two minutes with China international Han Peng volleying wide from Zhou Haibin's cross. Midway through the first half Nanchang, who were hungry for victory to avoid relegation, started to gain the upper hand, pinning Shandong inside their own half though failing to create any real attacking threat.
Four minutes after the break Lu Zheng almost broke the deadlock with a powerful attempt when one on one with Nanchang goalkeeper Bai Xiaolei only to see the ball bounce back off the crossbar. But Chen's superb solo effort put the home side ahead in the 60th minute when he outsprinted Yuan Weiwei to slot a low shot past keeper Yang Cheng.
Shandong coach Branko Ivankovic substituted de Leon for Lu in the 72nd minute and the move quickly paid dividends. Roda Antar headed Han Peng's header across the face of the goal and the unmarked Honduran rifled a shot into the back of the net.
"My players never let complacency hit them throughout the game," Ivankovic said. "We fought to the bitter end and I would say Shandong deserved the championship. Our first-half performance was lacklustre but we did well in the second period as we found our form to play fluid football before scoring the equaliser."
Shandong have 57 points after 28 rounds, 10 points more than second-placed Shanghai Shenhua, who were handed a 2-1 defeat by Henan Jianye at Zhengzhou Hanghai Stadium. Shandong also became the first Chinese team to secure a ticket to the Asian Champions League in 2011.
In Zhengzhou, Duvier Riascos scored in the 27th minute with a header but Emmanuel Olisadebe cancelled out the goal six minutes later before Leandro Netto curled home a 50th minute free-kick.
Elsewhere, Changchun Yatai drew 1-1 with Tianjin Teda. Wei'an Wu opened the scoring for Tianjin with just one minute on the clock but Claudinei Nei earned a point for Changchun 11 minutes before time.
Goals from Adam Griffiths and Luisn Ramirez gave Hangzhou Lucheng a 2-0 win at Shanzi Zhongxin while Jiangsu Shuntian edged Liaoning 1-0 courtesy of Ji Xiang's strike seven minutes from time. Beijing Guoan came back from a goal down to post a 2-1 win over Dalian Shide FC, as Changqing Wang's strike two minutes before the break cancelled out Martin Kamburov's 25th-minute opener. But Ryan Griffiths eked out a winner for the home side after 69 minutes.
Meanwhile, Shenzhen moved clear of the relegation zone - albeit on goal difference - after a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Chongqing Liana. Chris Killen began the win in emphatic style with a 12th-minute goal, while Sui Donglu and Aleksandar Zivkovic added two after the break with Johnny Lambert's penalty in the 77th minute the only consolation for Chongqing Liana.
Finally, Qingdao Zhongneng had to make comebacks twice in the game to ensure a share of the spoils in their 2-2 home draw against Changsha Jinde. Akanni-Sunday Wasiu's penalty gave the visitors the lead after 18 minutes, but Liu Jian restored parity 10 minutes before the break. The hosts fell behind again after 65 minutes when Huyi Wen scored but were level the next minute via a Stjepan Jukic strike as the game ended on level terms.