Three-time former champions Zenit St Petersburg battled back from a goal down to win 2-1 on the road at Amkar Perm to join the move joint top with Lokomotiv Moscow.
Zenit and Lokomotiv, who take on city rivals Spartak on Sunday, are both on 47 points, seven ahead of the trio of Moscow sides CSKA, Dynamo and Spartak, who share third spot.
The opposing teams were evenly matched on the synthetic pitch of Perm stadium but it was Amkar forward Maxim Kanunnikov, who opened the scoring in the 18th minute beating Zenit ‘keeper Yury Lodygin with an accurate shot from just outside the box.
Zenit poured forward in attack looking for an equaliser but Amkar defended well and kept a clean sheet until half-time.
After the interval, Zenit upped the tempo and their Italian wingback Domenico Criscito pulled them level in the 49th minute firing home a rebound from 10 metres after Amkar defenders blocked Alex Witsel’s initial shot.
Then in the 54th minute, Russian international forward Alexander Kerzhakov put Zenit into the lead with a close range shot following a good cross from Brazilian striker Hulk.
“Amkar, who didn’t lose a single home match before today’s clash, played very aggressive and gave us no chance to score before the break,” Zenit manager Andre Villas-Boas said.
“But after the break we modified our play, also adding aggression to our performance and scored twice. Amkar are well-organised and a physically strong team but we also showed good physical fitness and won deservedly today.”
In Saturday’s other match, Yekaterinburg earned a 2-1 win over rock bottom Anzhi Makhachkala in the battle of league strugglers to move up to 12th place.
Forward Spartak Gogniev lifted Ural 1-0 into the lead after nine minutes, while midfielder Alexander Yerokhin added a second three minutes before half-time to secure the hosts’ win.
Anzhi Moldovan defender Alexandru Epureanu netted a consolation goal with five minutes to go but failed to save the day for his side.