Two-time Asian champions Guangzhou FC were relegated from the Chinese Super League on Tuesday as leaders Wuhan Three Towns ensured the title race would go down to the final day of the season with a 2-0 win over Zhejiang FC.
Guangzhou, who won the Asian Champions League title in 2013 and 2015 as well as eight Chinese Super League crowns, were condemned to the drop following a 4-1 loss to Changchun Yatai.
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That result coupled with a 3-0 win for cross-town rivals Guangzhou City meant Guangzhou, owned by troubled property developers China Evergrande Group, cannot finish higher than 16th in the 18-team top flight.
Yan Dinghao gave Guangzhou hope of securing the win they needed when he cancelled out Wang Jixian's ninth-minute opener, but three second-half goals sealed the fate of Zheng Zhi's side.
Relegation ended Guangzhou's 12-season stay in the Chinese Super League, with the club winning the title every year from 2011 until 2017 before reclaiming the trophy in 2019. They were runners-up in 2018 and 2020 and finished third last season.
Former World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro was manager of the club as recently as 2021. Compatriot Marcello Lippi also had a stint as boss from 2012-2014.
The club has been severely affected by China Evergrande's financial troubles, with a host of key players leaving over the last 18 months.
Guangzhou City's win also meant Wuhan Yangtze were relegated after they lost 3-1 to Chengdu Rongcheng, joining Hebei FC in dropping down into China League One.
At the top of the standings, goals from Nicolae Stanciu and Davidson earned Wuhan Three Towns a win over Zhejiang FC that kept Pedro Morilla's side top going into Saturday's final round of fixtures.
Wuhan continue to lead on goal difference from defending champions Shandong Taishan, who were handed a 3-0 win after Meizhou Hakka withdrew from their meeting as a major COVID-19 outbreak meant they were unable to field a team.
The game was one of four in the penultimate round to be impacted by the Chinese government's decision to reverse its long-standing COVID-zero policy and effectively allow the virus to run unchecked across the country.
Shanghai Port were given a 3-0 win over Beijing Guoan while Dalian Pro were awarded victory by the same margin against Tianjin Tigers. Cangzhou Mighty Lions were awarded a 3-0 victory over Hebei FC.
Wuhan will host Tianjin Tigers in Saturday's final round knowing victory will earn them their first Chinese title while Shandong take on Beijing.