Paulinho celebrated his 100th game in the Chinese Super League on Sunday with two goals as Guangzhou Evergrande moved to within three points of the summit with a 5-0 win over Tianjin Quanjian.
The Brazil midfielder, who rejoined Guangzhou in July after a season with Barcelona, gave them the lead after 15 minutes and added their third goal in the 57th after Ricardo Goulart had doubled the lead.
Anderson Talisca added two more in the final 16 minutes as Quanjian made it five league games without a win and slipped to 12th.
"Tianjin are a very young club and they need to avoid making too many mistakes," Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro, who joined Evergrande after leading Tianjin to third place last year, said.
"As a team they need to try hard both on and off the field and I hope they can get back to where they were last year."
Guangzhou remain in fourth place, but just three points now cover the top sides after both Beijing Guoan and Shandong Luneng lost.
Guoan were beaten 3-0 by cross-city rivals Beijing Renhe while Shandong lost 3-1 to bottom side Guizhou Zhicheng.
Dan Petrescu picked up his second win as Guizhou coach since replacing Gregorio Manzano, but they remain seven points adrift of safety.
Shanghai SIPG moved level on points with Beijing Guoan with a game in hand as Wu Lei's 90th-minute winner -- his 18th goal of the season -- earned Vitor Pereira's team a 3-2 win over Chongqing Lifan.
Chris Coleman secured the second win of his Hebei China Fortune tenure with a 4-1 victory against 10-man Shanghai Shenhua, thanks in part to the return to action of Argentinian winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, who set up Ren Hang's opener.
Zhang Lu's sending-off a minute after coming on for Liu Ruofan ended Shenhua's hopes of clawing their way back.
Jiangsu Suning's chances of closing the gap on the leading quartet faltered with a 1-1 draw at home to Tianjin Teda, while Dalian Yifang's attempts to avoid the drop were enhanced as Nyasha Mushekwi's brace earned Bernd Schuster's team a 2-1 win over Henan Jianye.
Eran Zahavi scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season for Guangzhou R&F to ensure Dragan Stojkovic's side picked up a 5-2 win over Changchun Yatai.