With a place in the Copa Libertadores at stake for the winner, the Verdao were fortunate to come away with a comfortable win that could so easily have gone the other wayPalmeiras got one hand on the Copa do Brasil trophy with a 2-0 first-leg victory in the final against Coritiba at the Arena Barueri.
Fireworks greeted the two teams at kick off but for large parts the hosts failed to match the pre-match festivities on the pitch. Coritiba dominated the first half but Luiz Felipe Scolari's side took an undeserved lead as Jorge Valdivia tucked home a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
Thiago Heleno added a second after the break before the Chilean playmaker was dismissed for a second yellow card, thus ruling him out of the second leg, but the Coxa could not find a route back into the game.
It was the start of a consistent theme during the first period as with just eight minutes on the clock Coritiba broke forward at pace after clearing Marcos Assuncao's free kick. Junior Urso charged through on goal from the half-way line but when one-on-one with Bruno at the edge of the box the keeper came out on top, smothering his effort despite Everton Ribeiro being unmarked in the middle.
The visitors were in the ascendancy and Gil was at the heart of the action. His cross was blazed over by Rafinha before he smashed an effort over the bar himself. Palmeiras were looking complacent when in possession in defence and seemed much more at ease when they went on a rare attack.
With 20 minutes on the clock Bruno was called upon once again. Willian burst into the area from the right-hand side and though the angle was acute, he plumped for a shot. He aimed for the far corner but the Verdao keeper was wise to it and parried the ball wide of the goal.
Gil continued to be very lively for the Coxa but he failed to make the most of a deflected Thiago Heleno clearance, scuffing a free shot straight to the keeper. It ended up proving costly for his side as Jonas dragged down Betinho inside the area in second-half stoppage time and Valdivia stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards.
The visitors were unlucky to be behind but they remained on the front foot early in the second half but chances were proving hard to come by. In an attempt to add more creativity Marcelo Oliveira introduced former Schalke and Galatasaray midfielder Lincoln to the side in the 56th minute.
His impact was not as expected and Palmeiras soon began to enjoy more of the ball. Their lead was doubled shortly after the hour mark as Thiago Heleno headed Assuncao's deflected 35-yard free kick into the net with Vanderlei rooted to the spot.
The Parana side were offered a lifeline when Valdivia was dismissed for a second yellow card with just over 20 minutes remaining. They failed to take advantage and were lucky not to fall three goals behind in the closing stages. Maikon Leite showed electric pace to surge into the area but after rounding Vanderlei, he mishit his shot and the keeper recovered to get a crucial touch on the ball to keep it out.
It did not get any worse for the visitors but Scolari's side hold an impressive advantage ahead of next week's return fixture where an away goal would mean that Coritiba would need four to win the trophy. After tasting defeat in last year's final, Oliveira has his work cut out to avoid the Coxa suffering the same outcome for the second consecutive year.