Defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim edged 2019 runners-up Pahang FA 3-2 at Darul Makmur Stadium as the 2020 Malaysia Super League season resumed Friday after a five-month hiatus.
Pahang have been the Southern Tigers' closest competitors in the division in recent times, but Dollah Salleh's side have struggled with injuries going into the league restart with the likes of Mohamadou Sumareh, Khalil Khamis and Ivan Carlos not making it to the starting 11 on Friday.
It took JDT only five minutes to strike first as Argentine attacker Leandro Velazquez planted a free kick past goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee after Gonzalo Cabrera was infringed in front of the box by Pahang midfielder Gopi Rizqi.
19-year-old Ramadhan Saifullah struck the first Super League goal of his career in the 15th minute after latching onto a defence-splitting pass from Afiq Faizal before dancing past Sharbinee and defender R Dinesh to score.
It looked like game, set and match for JDT when Gonzalo Cabrera converted a penalty, won by Ramadhan, in the 35th minute, but a shambolic piece of goalkeeping from Farizal Marlias let the Elephants back into the game towards the end of the first period.
The Malaysia international shot-stopper held onto a back pass long enough for Pahang's Faisal Halim to nick the ball into the goal. The home side then reduced the deficit to just one goal before the half-time break as French centre-back Herold Goulon headed in from a corner to atone for conceding the penalty earlier in the game.
Safawi came on after the hour-mark for what could be one of his final appearances for the Malaysian champions but did not make any major contribution. Safawi is set to leave the club at the end of the season after receiving an offer from Portugal's Portimonense SC.
In matches elsewhere, FELDA United were defeated 1-0 by league newcomers UiTM FC at the Tun Abdul Razak Stadium while visitors Melaka United scraped past 2018 Malaysia Cup winners Perak FA 1-0 at the Perak Stadium, thanks to a 51st-minute winner from the boots of Ferris Danial.
JDT are on course for a record seventh league title and now lead the standings with 13 points from five matches followed by Perak who have eight points. This year's Malaysian top flight will be decided in 11 games by October 10 as the league organisers have ditched the usual home-and-away format for a single-match schedule due to the pandemic.