Eredivisie Review: AZ keep in touch at the top, NAC Breda thumped
Both sides came into the game looking to stay in touch with the top four, and it was AZ who seized the initiative five minutes before half-time when a handball in the box allowed Nemanja Gudelj to convert from the spot.
The Serbian sealed the win 10 minutes after the break, lashing home Jeffrey Gouweleeuw's cut-back to secure a third straight win for John van den Brom's side, who are now behind Twente and Feyenoord on goal difference alone.
At the other end of the table, NAC Breda's relegation worries show no sign of easing any time soon after they were thumped 5-1 at home by Utrecht.
Jeffrey Sarpong's stunning 25-yard strike in the 37th minute cancelled out Ruud Boymans' opener.
However, Utrecht reclaimed the lead on the stroke of half-time when Edouard Duplan marked his return after 10 months out with a goal.
And the visitors took complete control in the second period, Boymans grabbing his second of the game to become the Eredivisie's joint-top scorer with nine goals before goals from Rubio Rubin and Nacer Barazite completed the rout.
The result sees NAC slip to second bottom, while Utrecht are now up to ninth.
Heracles leapfrogged Breda with a 1-0 victory over Heerenveen, secured by Wout Weghorst's goal early in the second half.
Saturday's other game saw Vitesse squander a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Go Ahead Eagles.
Goals from Marko Vejinovic and Abiola Dauda looked to have secured three points for Vitesse.
However, Alex Schalk took advantage of Rochdi Achenteh's error to make it 2-1 in the 75th minute and a comeback was completed when Mawouna Amevor headed home eight minutes later.