ABS got at away victory in Bayelsa and Pillars showed further proof that they were ready for a defence of the title won last year with a draw away against Dolphins
The Yenagoa side have started waking up to the reality of their new status as an elite after a surprised home loss to struggling ABS of Ilorin in a game played at the Samson Siasia Stadium.
Nembe at initially lost in Week 2 to Enugu Rangers barely a week after the Rumson Baribote-led club got a sensational win at Owerri against Heartland.
Sala Abiodun who was also on the score-sheet when ABS beat Enyimba 3-0 last Wednesday netted with barely a minute remaining and they held on stoutly for the famous victory despite a late minute onslaught by Nembe to get an equaliser.
The win lifted ABS from 19th position to 15th with 22 points from 17 matches and they will fancy their chances to even go further up with a victory on Wednesday at home to Warri Wolves. Nembe on their part are 12th with 23 points from 17 ties. They travel to Akure to keep a date with Sunshine Stars this mid-week.
DOLPHINS 1-1 KANO PILLARS
The Port Harcourt side dissipated more energy at time to their last away loss to Lobi Stars that they forgot they would play league's reigning champions, Pillars three days later. The mind game and the war of words that greeted the Katsina Ala perhaps had a negative bearing on the Week 17 after they were held to a draw at home to Pillars.
The Kano side had flown to Port Harcourt from their base with the aim of protecting their unbeaten run in the city having fired blank against Sharks earlier in the season during Week 7 and they had their dreamed result after the end of hostility last Saturday.
Ex-Heartland's striker Kabiru Umar got the curtain raiser in the 7th minute to the angst of the home fans before Fred Okwara evened the scoreline three minutes after the restart of the second half. It was Okwara's 7th goal of the season.
Pillars are still five points more than nearest challengers, Kwara United with 32 points from 17 games to hold on to the first position while Dolphins remained sixth with 25 points from as many matches.
Dolphins have a tough road fixture against Wikki Tourists who are fighting the battle of their life to stay in the elite division while Pillars will be at home in a bid to extend their two-match unbeaten run against Lobi Stars. Both games are slated for midweek.
RANGERS 3-1 HEARTLAND
The oriental derby ended with the Flying Antelopes having a last laugh over their Owerri based opponents. The game was 3-1 in favour of Rangers but they were however assured of maximum points only during the stoppage time of the game when Marshall Onoriode put the result of the tie in doubt with the third goal.
In form defender Haliru Umar had put the Caf Confederation Cup hopeful at the driver's seat with two goals in the 2nd and 45th minutes but Tochukwu Esom's 80th minute stunner threatened a fightback before Onoriode's effort sealed the day.
Rangers are 9th with 24 points from 15 ties while Heartland are in 4th spot with 25 points from 17 games. Rangers will take a long road trip to Maiduguri to face El Kanemi Warriors while Heartland are home to Nasarawa United this mid-week.
ENYIMBA 1-0 SUNSHINE STARS
At the Enyimba International Stadium,Aba, the Peoples Elephant defeated Sunshine Stars 1-0 to return to winning ways after the agonising 0-3 loss away to ABS last Wednesday.
Last season's highest goals scorer, Sibi Gwar scored the only goal of the match in the second half for his 6th goal of the current campaign. It was a spot kick. Gwar has netted three goals each from open play and penalty kicks this season.
Enyimba are now 5th (same position Sunshine occupied before Week 17 matches were decided) with 25 points from 17 games while the Akure Arsenal are still on 24 points from same number of matches but are placed 10th.
It marked the first loss for Sunshine's new head coach, Fatai Amoo after he had opened his account with a win against Nasarawa United last Thursday.
Enyimba will make a short road trip to Port Harcourt to entertain troubled Sharks on Wednesday while Sunshine will seek for important win at home to Nembe City also on Wednesday.
NASARAWA UNITED 1-0 SHARKS
The Lafia side ground out a 1-0 win against relegation haunted Sharks with Victor Namo scoring his sixth goal of the campaign in the 66th minute of the match.
The Blue Angels' haul of 14 points is the poorest in the league this season and it may take more than a miracle to guarantee their survival even with the current season yet to hit halfway.
Nasarawa United are seventh with 25 points while Sharks are last with 11 points differential from that of their Week 17 host.
Sharks welcome erratic Enyimba to Sharks Stadium in Port Harcourt this mid-week while Nasarawa United with Coach Alphonsus Dike in charge will visit Owerri to lock horns with Heartland.
For the Blue Angels they are in need of a win at all costs while the Lafia side will also fancy leaving Owerri with at least a point to confirm they are in the elite division to stay.
WARRI WOLVES 2-1 3SC
It is rare for the away team to praise the effort of match officials especially in the Nigerian league where win at home at all costs is the order of the day but the Oluyole Warriors changed that when they congratulated centre referee I. Bethel from Imo State for a job well done despite losing 1-2 to Warri Wolves.
It was a goalless draw in the first half with both sides struggling to assert their authority but it quickly burst to life in the second half when Oghenekaro Etebo scored Wolves' curtain raiser in the 62nd minute through a fine free kick converted by Oghenekaro Etebo after Joseph Osadaiye was felled by a 3SC defender but the Oluyole Warriors got the leveler in the 78th minute through Tony Edjomariegwe.
The Delta State side however ensured they bagged the maximum point with Ike Thankgod's last gasp goal in the 90th minute.
Warri Wolves moved to 11th on 24 points from 17 matches while 3SC are still on 22 points from as many games. They are placed 14th. The Ibadan side should continue their impressive home form with a winnable tie at the Lekan Salami Stadium on Wednesday while Warri Wolves will trade tackles against a rejuvenated ABS team.
KADUNA UNITED 2-1 AKWA UNITED
Kaduna United gained another home win in their battling attempt to escape relegation. They beat Akwa United 2-1 with Yau Abdullahi and Iliya Jibo on the scorers chart while Mfon Udoh pulled a goal back for the Uyo-based side.
Kaduna United are now 13th on the log with 23 points from 17 games while Akwa United slipped into the bottom three with 20 points from 16 matches.
Kaduna United will travel to Ibadan to face 3SC who have lost just three points at home all season while Akwa United with the fate of their last home game fiasco yet to be determined by the League Management Company(LMC) will play host to Kwara United. Both matches take place on Wednesday.
GOMBE UNITED 1-0 WIKKI TOURISTS
The Desert Scorpions returned to winning ways at home after the 2-2 draw to Lobi Stars in Week 15 with a close 1-0 victory over relegation troubled Wikki Tourists.
Gombe United had to put behind them a 4-0 away loss to Pillars to eke out the home win and improved their points' haul to 25 from 17 games.
The Maurice Cooreman-tutored side is eighth on the log while their foes are 19th with 17 points from as many matches.
Gombe United are guest of Bayelsa United while Wikki play host to Dolphins this mid-week in Week 18 ties.
LOBI STARS 1-1 EL KANEMI WARRIORS
At the Emmanuel Atongo Stadium,Katsina Ala, Lobi Stars could only salvage a 1-1 draw at home to visiting El Kanemi Warriors.
It was goalless in the first half but Lobi opened scoring in the 57th minute through John Kollies whose delightful scorcher went past David Obiazor who was between the goal posts for El Kanemi but Jacob Ngbam got the equaliser for the visiting team in the 84th minute. Both sides fluffed begging chances in the first half and some part of the second.
Speaking with Goal after the encounter, Lobi's Technical Director, Dominic Iorfa disclosed that mother luck was against them but confirmed they would stage a comeback against Pillars this mid-week
While El Kanemi head coach, Zachary Baraje praised the doggedness of his boys and confessed they aimed at getting an away victory but that they were content with the point they got.
Lobi and El Kanemi have 22 points from 17 games and are 17th and 16th on the log respectively. El Kanemi will face Enugu Rangers on Wednesday in Maiduguri while Lobi visit Pillars.
KWARA UNITED 2-0 BAYELSA UNITED
The Afonja Warriors stormed to second on the table after beating previous occupant, Bayelsa United at the Kwara State Stadium, Ilorin.
Kwara United's goals were scored by Yahaya Adamu who notched his fifth goal of the campaign from seven games while Stanley Dimgba got the second.
The Ilorin side are on 28 points from 17 games with second spot as a reward while Bayelsa United slipped to third with 26 points from 17 matches.
The Samson Unuanel-coached side visit Akwa United this mid-week and they will fancy their chances of picking at least a point with the Uyo side likely to be banished away from the Uyo Township Stadium after the crowd violence that forced the abandonment of the Week 16 clash against Warri Wolves.
Bayelsa United on their part will want to return to winning ways with a home tie against Gombe United. Both matches are slated for mid-week.