The door creaked ajar when leaders Wollongong Olympic were held by South Coast United on Saturday.
But the two potential challengers could not be separated at Terry Reserve on Sunday, meaning Olympic maintain their seven point lead at the top of the Illawarra Premier League.
Olympic offered something of an opportunity to Albion Park or Corrimal after their draw, just when they had threatened to run away with the league title race.
Corrimal raced out of the blocks in pursuit when Van Elia curled in a goal after three minutes, only for Albion Park to catch up almost immediately, Cameron Morgan capitalising on Naomichi Araki's quickly taken free kick. And that's where it stood, Olympic's title-winning advantage maintained with a Bert Bampton Cup final also beckoning.
Port Kembla kept their finals chances alive with a gritty 2-nil win over Fernhill on Saturday.
Coach Steven Dimitrievski admitted being frustrated as Port had to wait until late to seal it, but the victory pushes them to 24 points within two of Tarrawanna and Woonona, who play a catch-up game against Wollongong United on Tuesday.
"We just need to be more clinical," he said.
"We've been able to create the chances, but when you build pressure, you need to convert and we've a number of times where we've played well and didn't get the reward for it.
"It's an important three points, we've got a big week coming up with two games against Bulli."
Port tackle Bulli in a Fraternity Cup semi-final at Wetherall Park on Wednesday night, then again at Balls Paddock on Saturday, a game which would all but end finals hopes for the losers.
Goalkeeper Chris Ramirez pulled off a couple of outstanding saves in the second half to deny Fernhill an equaliser. Bulli sealed an equally important 1-nil win over Cringila on Saturday to keep pace in the finals race, while Woonona bounced back from a crushing 7-2 loss to Olympic with a 5-nil thumping of Coniston.
Adding to the logjam, Wollongong United celebrated their first win since May 18 with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Tarrawanna.
United broke the scoreless half-time deadlock when Hikaru Kawasakiya headed in after 54 minutes, before doubling their lead three minutes later when Mat Brennan was on target.
However, the Blueys bounced back moments later through Sam Munro, who finished off Rick Goodchild's pass to the goalmouth.
Tarrawanna contiued to push for an equaliser, but were denied, dragging them firmly back into the finals dogfight.
ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE
Ladder: WOLLONGONG OLYMPIC 39 (+23), ALBION PARK 32 (+11), CORRIMAL 31 (+21), TARRAWANNA 26 (+10), WOONONA* 26 (-5), Wollongong United* 25 (+6), Port Kembla 24 (+1), Bulli 24 (+1), Coniston 19 (-5), Cringila 14 (-18), South Coast United 12 (-20), Fernhill 10 (-25).
ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE
WOLLONGONG UNITED v WOONONA at Macedonia Park (8pm)
Round 18 (2.30pm)
BULLI v PORT KEMBLA at Balls Paddock, CONISTON v SOUTH COAST UNITED at JJ Kelly Park, WOONONA v ALBION PARK at Ocean Park, FERNHILL v WOLLONGONG UNITED at Ray Robinson Field.
CRINGILA v CORRIMAL at John Crehan Park, TARRAWANNA v WOLLONGONG OLYMPIC at Tarrawanna Oval
BERT BAMPTON CUP
TARRAWANNA v WOLLONGONG OLYMPIC at Ray Robinson Field
PORT KEMBLA v BULLI at Wetherall Park
While you're with us the Illawarra Mercury is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love for only $3 a week. Terms and conditions apply.