Third-placed Coritiba passing up the chance to hit the summit as they lost 1-0 at home to Vasco da Gama.
Pedro Ken netted the game's only goal in the fifth minute to lift Vasco up to 10th, ensuring Coritiba ended the day two points behind Cruzeiro and Botafogo.
Corinthians climbed to fourth spot with a 2-0 triumph over Vitoria, Ralf opening the scoring in the seventh minute and Alexandre Pato making the points safe by converting a penalty seven minutes after the interval.
Otavio's 88th-minute equaliser earned sixth-placed Internacional a 2-2 home draw against fifth-spotted Atletico Paranaense, keeping the teams locked together on points.
Joao Paulo had put the visitors ahead in the first minute only for Juan to level 13 minutes later, and they took the lead for a second time through Ederson in the 75th minute but Otavio had the last word.
Three goals in the final quarter saw Gremio claim seventh place with a 3-0 victory at Bahia, who finished the match with 10 men following the dismissal of Titi 16 minutes from time.
Cristian Riveros set the visitors on their way in the 68th minute and substitute Maximiliano Rodriguez doubled their advantage 10 minutes later - just two minutes after his introduction. Fellow substitute Guilherme Biteco added further gloss to the scoreline at the death.
Flamengo moved up to mid-table thanks to their fourth win of the campaign - an entertaining 3-2 success at Fluminense.
Rafael Sobis had given the hosts a 17th-minute lead in Rio de Janeiro, but goals from Elias and Hernane turned the match on its head before half-time.
Hernane then put the result beyond doubt 10 minutes from time before Sobis' stoppage-time consolation made the scoreline more respectable for Fluminense.
Sao Paulo stayed second from bottom after going down 2-1 at Portuguesa, Diogo's double - one goal either side of Lucas Evangelista's equaliser - lifting the home team three points above their opponents in the standings.
Ponte Preta's 3-1 home win over third-bottom Criciuma lifted the victors to 13th, first-half goals William and Jose de Oliveira briefly pegged back by Brito Lins' 56th-minute strike before Everton Santos sealed matters.