Guangzhou were in front five minutes before the interval through Luiz Muriqui, only for Yin Lu to equalise after 51 minutes.
A 69th-minute penalty from Cleo eventually settled the contest as the home side widened their advantage over the chasing pack.
Fourth-placed Beijing Guoan lost ground at the top with a 2-2 draw at Henan Jianye.
Lu Feng twice fired Henan in front, but goals from Xizhe Zhang and Reinaldo ensured the points were shared.
Dalian Shide climbed off the foot of the table with a 4-1 victory over Tianjin Taida.
A James Chamanga hat-trick formed the backbone of the win with Martin Kamburov also on the scoresheet. Sjoerd Ars grabbed a late reply for Tianjin.
A last-minute goal from Xu Yang earned Liaoning a 1-1 draw at Shanghai Shenhua.
Qui Tianyi had given Shanghai a 69th-minute lead but they were denied a third win of the season.