Hanoi T&T were on top of V-League rankings after round 20 on Wednesday despite a 1-2 home defeat at Hang Day Stadium to Hai Phong Cement, aided by Binh Duong's 1-2 loss to Ninh Binh.
Hai Phong took the lead after 21 minutes when Ngoc Thanh's shot hit the post and went to an unmarked Dong Duc Thang, who made no mistake.
Just a couple of minutes later the hosts Hanoi T&T restored parity, Cao Sy Cuong's powerful shot from some 20 meters finding the back of the net.
The decisive goal came in the the final minute when Hai Phong's 25-year-old Nigerian defender John Wole headed home a neat pass by Brazilian midfielder and captain Leandro from the right flank.
Hai Phong climbed one place to fifth with 33 points while Hanoi T&T with 37 points remained on top, two points clear of the league's 2007-08 champions Binh Duong, who suffered an away loss to Ninh Binh.
Ninh Binh, with 29 points, moved up one spot to seventh while Binh Duong slid one place to third with 35 points, ceding second spot to Dong Thap on goal difference, posting a 4-1 home win at Cao Lanh Stadium over Hoa Phat Hanoi.
The away defeat to Dong Thap pushed Hoa Phat Hanoi two places down to ninth with 28 points.
Khanh Hoa climbed one position to fourth with 33 points after a 2-1 home victory at Nha Trang Stadium over 2005-06 champs Dong Tam Long An, who dropped one place to 11th with 25 points.
Reigning champs Da Nang fell two places two six with 31 points after a 2-3 home defeat to Song Lam Nghe An, not doing their chances of defending their title any good. With just six matches to go this season, winning the championship is more than an uphill task.
Nam Dinh were still nailed to the bottom with 12 points after a 1-2 home loss to the 2003-04 champions Hoang Anh Gia Lai, who climbed one place to eight with 29 points.
Navibank Saigon (formerly the Fourth Military Zone), who were held to a goalless draw by Thanh Hoa at HCMC's Thong Nhat Stadium, have 15 points and are not in better straits than Nam Dinh.
Thanh Hoa, third from the bottom, now have 24 points and still have the opportunity to move up and avoid a play-off match.
The two teams at the bottom will be relegated to the second-tier First Division next season while the third will fight against the third best First Division team in a play-off match for a place in V-League's next season.