The Aguias face an uphill task to claim the league title as they are now four points behind leaders Porto after a match that was largely dominated by the home side
The game started off nervously, with both sides clearly understanding the importance of the match, and for the opening 15 minutes neither team could dominate proceedings.
It all changed in the 16th minute, when Ricky van Wolfswinkel fell inside the Benfica box after being touched by Luisao on the neck. The Dutch striker made no mistake from the spot, sending Artur the wrong way to put Sporting in the lead.
The hosts were now in control of the game, but they surprisingly looked content with the result and were unable to create much more danger in the first half. Benfica were having a hard time finding space inside Sporting's half, with Cardozo's 39th-minute header the only time they gave Rui Patricio a scare, but the ball went wide of the right post.
Sporting came out stronger iafter the break and gave a warning just five minutes in. Javi Garcia lost possession in a dangerous area, and Van Wolfswinkel forced Artur to tip his shot from outside the box over the bar.
Just moments later, Benfica came close to equalising following a scramble in the Sporting box, but Maxi Pereira’s header was cleared off the line by Emiliano Insua.
The game was now being played at a frantic pace, with both sides growing in confidence, and the hosts almost doubled their lead on the hour mark, when Van Wolfswinkel picked up a sloppy back-pass from Javi Garcia. With only Artur to beat, the striker saw the Brazilian custodian stop his low shot just inside the 18-yard box.
Sporting were in the driving seat at this point and were just inches away from scoring their second of the night in the 63rd minute, as Marat Izmailov unleashed an unstoppable shot from distance only to see it smash against the bar.
Van Wolfswinkel will have cursed his luck in the 72nd minute after picking up a pass from Elias and rounding Artur. The Dutchman had a clear path to goal, but slipped as he tried to shoot.
Before the end of the match, Benfica were reduced to 10 men as Luisao saw his second yellow for a foul on Diego Rubio.
With this result, Sporting are now one point behind Maritimo in the race for the fourth place. Benfica remain second but now four points shy of leaders Porto, who defeated Sporting de Braga 1-0 on Saturday.