Sao Paulo keeper sent off after scoring winner
In a round marked by "clasicos," Internacional beat Gremio 1-0 in the Porto Alegre derby with a goal by Argentine Andres D'Alessandro and Brazils' Adriano notched his 16th goal to hand Flamengo a 1-0 win over Botafogo in their Rio derby.
With seven matches to go, a mere three points separate leaders Palmeiras, who have 54, from fifth-placed Flamengo as the battle heats up for the title and four Libertadores Cup berths.
Palmeiras lost another chance to pull away when they were beaten 2-0 at Santo Andre on Wednesday, their third defeat in a row and third match without scoring.
Atletico Mineiro, who beat Vitoria 1-0 on Saturday, have 53 points in second place with Inter and title holders Sao Paulo on 52 apiece.
Rogerio Ceni, the world's highest-scoring keeper with 84 goals, scored Sao Paulo's winner in the 69th minute of the match at Santos, finding the net for the first time in a year.
He was sent off 11 minutes from time for a foul outside his area on Santos striker Jean who was heading unmarked for goal.
Santos, coached by former Brazil and Real Madrid trainer Vanderlei Luxemburgo, twice took the lead in the first half with headed goals by Andre and Rodrigo Souto from corners.
Midfielder Hernanes, with a free kick, and Washington equalised to leave the score 2-2 at halftime.
Jorge Wagner put Sao Paulo ahead on the hour and substitute Robson headed Santos level in the 67th, two minutes before Rogerio Ceni's goal.
"To pull in on the leaders, reducing the difference to two points, turning the game round, is more proof of how balanced the championship is," said Sao Paulo coach Ricardo Gomes.
Argentine playmaker D'Alessandro needed just three minutes to secure victory for Inter in the "Gre-Nal" derby. He shot from outside the box and Gremio goalkeeper Victor misjudged the bounce of the ball.
It was D'Alessandro's third goal in five derbies this year with Inter winning four.
"That's still very little, I want to do much more to go down in Internacional's history," the former River Plate, VfL Wolfsburg, Portsmouth and Real Zaragoza player told reporters.
Adriano joined Brazil team mate Diego Tardelli of Atletico Mineiro as the championship's top scorer with 16 goals after scoring against Botafogo for Flamengo's third win in a row and 10th match unbeaten.
Before kick off police used tear gas to disperse rival factions of Flamengo fans who were fighting.