SIPG's Marko Arnautovic suffered a bloodied nose in a clash with Shenhua’s Stephane M’Bia, while SIPG goalkeeper Yan Junling was substituted before the break after taking a heavy blow to the head.

M’Bia was on hand to snuff out SIPG’s best chance 15 minutes from time when the former Queens Park Rangers defender blocked Li Shenglong’s attempt on the goal-line with goalkeeper Zeng Cheng well beaten.

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Li was again denied, this time by Zeng, five minutes from time to leave SIPG coach Vitor Pereira screaming in frustration, while Yang Xu almost stole the win for Shenhua with an injury time header, but the ball sailed just the wrong side of the post.

The teams will meet again on Friday, with the winner taking on either Jiangsu Suning or Chongqing Lifan in the playoff semi-finals.

Henan Jianye, meanwhile, will take a 1-0 advantage into the second leg of their relegation playoff against Wuhan Zall after Brazilian striker Henrique Dourado scored the only goal of their game in Dalian.

Dourado saw his penalty saved after Christian Bassogog was upended in the area by Liao Junjian but scored on the rebound after goalkeeper Dong Chunyu parried the ball back into his path.

The pair face off again on Friday with the winner guaranteed a place in the top flight of Chinese football next season.

The loser will remain in the battle to avoid claiming one of the two relegation places. (Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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