Hanoi T&T 's 1-1 away draw with Ninh Binh in the 24th round on Sunday meant they lost their chance to win the top-tier V-League championship two rounds early.
However, the capital representatives are now just a draw away from the title with 45 points, six points clear of second-placed Hai Phong Cement, who suffered a 0-1 away defeat to Dong Thap at the Cao Lanh Stadium.
Hanoi T&T were calm and confident throughout the match, but it was the hosts Ninh Binh who took the lead after striker Viet Thang found the net 15 minutes into the match. Caue Benicio evened the score just five minutes later.
Ninh Binh fought hard but Hanoi T&T held on for a draw, and need just another tie in the remaining two games of the season to claim the championship this season.
The home draw with big rivals from the capital could only lift Ninh Binh one spot up to 10th with 33 points.
Meanwhile, Hai Phong Cement needed a win to remain in the race for the title but Dong Thap players were a highly motivated lot after a VND200 million prize for a victory was upped to VND500 million (US$16,200).
The defeat destroyed the port city team's hopes of winning the championship, while Dong Thap moved up one place to fourth with 38 points and could finish the season in the top three.
In other V-League action, reigning champs Da Nang were nailed to ninth spot with 34 points after a disappointing two-all home tie at Chi Lang Stadium against 2007-08 champs Binh Duong, who fell three places to sixth with 37 points.
Bottom teams Nam Dinh's 1-3 loss to Thanh Hoa at Thien Truong Stadium and Navibank Saigon's 0-2 defeat to Khanh Hoa at Thong Nhat Stadium came as no surprise because they did not have any goals except pride to fight for.
Thanh Hoa are still third from bottom despite the win while Khanh Hoa climbed one position to third with 39 points.
Their 1-0 away win over Hoa Phat Hanoi at Hang Day Stadium lifted 2001 champions Nghe An one place to seventh with 36 points.
Meanwhile, 2003-04 champions Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) suffered a disappointing 0-2 home defeat at Pleiku Stadium to the 2005-06 champs Dong Tam Long An (DTLA).
DTLA jumped two positions to fifth with 37 points while HAGL slid one spot to 11th with 33 points.