SAO PAULO (AP) -- Cruzeiro defeated Santos 1-0 on Sunday to open up a 14-point lead over second-place Gremio with six rounds left in the Brazilian league, virtually securing its first title since 2003.
Striker Everton Ribeiro scored a 55th-minute winner at the Vila Belmiro Stadium in Santos, giving Cruzeiro its third victory in the last four matches, and 21st in 32 rounds. The Belo Horizonte team can lift the trophy as early as next Sunday, when it hosts Gremio at its Mineirao Stadium.
Gremio, winless in three matches, saw its title chances diminish after a 0-0 home draw against Bahia in Porto Alegre. Third-place Botafogo also saw its hopes vanish after a conceding a late goal in a 1-0 loss to Goias, staying with 53 points, one behind Gremio.
Goias is the in-form team of the league with six straight wins. It moved to fifth on the table with 52 points, in contention for a Copa Libertadores spot next year. The top four in the 20-team standings qualify.
Fourth-place Atletico Paranaense played against Internacional later Sunday.
On Saturday, Nautico became the first team relegated to the second division after losing 5-0 to Copa Libertadores champion Atletico Mineiro in Belo Horizonte.
Cruzeiro is possibly a victory away from its third national title thanks to its win over Santos on Sunday. It outplayed the home team from the start and secured the win with Everton Ribeiro's remarkable run early in the second half. The striker got past three defenders before firing a low shot from inside the area.
Cruzeiro has been dominant from the start of the season, outscoring its opponents 66-29, by far the best margin in the league. The team's remarkable campaign is reminiscent of its run in 2003, when it also cruised to the title and lifted the trophy in advance.
Also Sunday, seventh-place Vitoria drew club world champion Corinthians 1-1 in Salvador. Corinthians has won only one of its last seven matches and is only 11th on the table.
On Saturday, Sao Paulo beat Portuguesa 2-1 at the Morumbi Stadium to win its fourth in a row and move to eighth in the 20-team standings. Vasco da Gama, debuting coach Adilson Batista, defeated Coritiba 2-1 at home for its first win in five matches, but it remains in relegation zone.
In the second-division, the match between Avai and Figueirense in Florianopolis had to be briefly stopped because of a confrontation between fans and police, according to Brazilian media. Fans reportedly threw objects onto the field, but no one was seriously injured.
Palmeiras, the Brazilian club with the most national titles, had already secured its return to the first division a week ago. It can clinch the title next week, four rounds in advance.
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