Ronaldo scored his sixth goal in seven matches on Tuesday to help Corinthians thrash Ituano 3-0 and secure a spot in the semifinals of the Sao Paulo state championship. In Rio de Janeiro, Flamengo defeated Americano 1-0 and Vasco beat Macae by the same score.
With one round to go before the semifinals stage, Corinthians is second in the 20-team standings with 38 points, three less than defending champion Palmeiras, which drew Oeste 1-1 earlier on Tuesday. Sao Paulo is third and Portuguesa fourth. The top four clubs will advance.
Ronaldo, staging his third comeback from serious knee surgeries, gathered a cross from defender Alessandro and delivered a right-footed shot from near the penalty spot in the 27th minute. Striker Jorge Henrique opened the scoring for the four-time national champion with a header just two minutes into the match at Pacaembu stadium, and midfielder Cristian added to Corinthians' first-half lead with a well-struck free kick in the 41st. The 32-year-old Ronaldo also had a goal disallowed in the 85th after he was ruled offside.
Corinthians, which had won only one of its last four matches, played a man up from the 79th when Ituano defender Ceara was ejected after receiving two yellow cards.
Corinthians' rival Palmeiras missed a chance to clinch first place and secure home ground advantage throughout the finals stage after drawing Oeste 1-1 in Itapolis.
Palmeiras, which has led the traditional regional tournament by as many as seven points, needs a home victory against Botafogo in Sunday's final round to avoid being overtaken by Sao Paulo, which will host Guaratingueta on Thursday at Morumbi stadium and can move to within two points with a victory.
Also Thursday, 2006 and 2007 champion Santos will host Portuguesa in a match it needs to win to keep alive any hopes of advancing to the semifinals. Santos is in fifth place and trails Portuguesa by three points.
Guarani, the 1978 Brazilian champion, fell 2-1 to Mirassol in Campinas to become dangerously close to relegation. Mirassol rallied from a first-half deficit with a winner in the third and final minute of second-half injury time. Guarani is last in the 20-team standings and the bottom four will be relegated to the second division.
In the Rio Cup, the second stage of the Rio de Janeiro state championship, defending Rio champion Flamengo edged Americano 1-0 with a penalty kick converted by defender Juan in the 87th minute, a result that nearly secured Brazil's most popular club a place in the semifinals.
Also Tuesday, Vasco _ which has already qualified for the next round _ beat Macae 1-0 at Maracana stadium with a goal by striker Rodrigo Pimpao in the 13th. It was Vasco's seventh consecutive win in the Rio Cup.
On Thursday, Guanabara Cup champion Botafogo will face Madureira, while Fluminense will host Boavista. The winners of each stage meet for the Rio title. Botafogo will clinch the trophy automatically if it also wins the Rio Cup.