Leon fought back twice and clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory at home to Atlas in Thursday night's first leg of the Liga MX final.
In front of a packed crowd at Estadio Leon, Atlas initially took charge with an attack-minded approach that secured an early goal in the 11th minute from Luis Reyes.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse for Leon when injured right-back Andres Mosquera had to be substituted in the 35th minute but moments after, the hosts equalized when Victor Davila launched a powerful shot into the back of the net.
Not to be outdone, Atlas' Julio Furch had an eye-catching strike of his own in the 65th minute that gave the advantage back to Atlas at 2-1.
Desperate for answers, Leon manager Ariel Holan mixed up his tactics by bringing on midfielder Luis Montes and forward Emanuel Gigliotti. The gamble proved to be a successful one as Leon began to push higher up. In the 78th minute, winger Angel Mena picked up a rebound from Atlas goalkeeper Camilo Vargas and slotted the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
Following a foul on Davila in the 18-yard box, Mena then stepped up to the penalty spot and scored for Leon in the 86th minute, giving them a 3-2 lead. Stunned by the comeback, Atlas weren't able to manage another shot before the referee blew the final whistle.
"We never stopped fighting," Mena said after the match to TUDN. "We believed that we could reverse the situation."
Mena now has six goals to his name in his last four playoff appearances this season.
As for Atlas, manager Diego Cocca has yet to lose hope and praised the character of his squad.
"This team has an identity, they walk onto the pitch to defend their identity," Cocca said. "When we put on our jersey, we go out on the pitch to win."
Atlas will host Leon in the second leg of the final this Sunday at the Estadio Jalisco.