Ten-man South China needed a stoppage-time penalty to beat Yokohama FC 2-1 on Sunday and move to the top of the RedMR First Division table.
The defending champions had to thank skipper Kwok Kin-pong.
He gave them the lead in the second half with a powerful low drive. But after Chak Ting-fung conceded an own goal with only six minutes left, the left back came to the rescue by earning a penalty in time added on.
Striker Mamadou Barry converted the spot kick and the Caroliners now lead the table with 14 points, one ahead of Sun Pegasus and Kitchee in second place.
Yokohama defender Li Shu-yeung had been shown a straight red card for bringing down Kwok in a scoring opportunity inside the box. Earlier, South China midfielder Luk Chi-ho received his second yellow card to leave the Caroliners struggling.
"We were one man down for more than half an hour which put us in a very difficult position," Kwok said. "We still managed to score despite the disadvantage, but after we conceded the own goal we had to throw everything into attack because we could not afford a draw. We are very happy to be the winning side under such difficult conditions."
At Sham Shui Po Sports Ground, Tales Schutz scored from a great bicycle kick for BC Rangers, but they still had to settle for a 1-all draw after conceding a late goal to Eastern Salon.
The former South China forward, once on the brink of early retirement after injuring his calf, was playing his second match for Rangers since his return to the city last month.
"I feel very happy coming back to Hong Kong," said the 32-year-old Brazilian, who played in Azerbaijan after quitting South China in 2011.
"It was a wonderful goal today and possibly one of the best in my career here, but I am still not at my best and will need a couple more games to get there. My condition is getting better and sooner or later I will be able to show my top form again."
It took only two minutes before Schutz delighted the crowds with superb skill. Inside the penalty box, he controlled a cross with his chest before launching a volley with his back facing Eastern goalkeeper Li Hon-ho.
"We deserved to win the match as we created more chances, but in the end a lapse of concentration cost us dearly. It was a bit unlucky to concede such a late goal," said Schutz.
Second-half substitute Leung Kwok-wai headed an equaliser for Eastern after a goal-mouth melee in stoppage time.