Pahang suffered a 4-2 defeat to LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The defeat was the Elephants’ first in 14 league matches and Zainal Abidin will have to pick his team up to mount a title challenge with four matches remaining.
Pahang went two goals behind by the half hour mark but Matias Conti pulled one back as the team headed into the break.
Faris Ramli put LionsXII ahead after 17 minutes with a shot from inside the box.
Madhu Mohana doubled the lead for the host after rising to head Zulfahmi’s corner in the 30th minute.
Conti’s header, from a Fauzi Roslan cross, revived Pahang’s hopes for another come from behind win.
Faris Ramli doubled his personal tally to reinstate LionsXII’s two goal cushion after his shot deflected of Razman Roslan and into the goal.
Safuwan Baharuddin delivered Pahang another blow with a well taken shot to the top corner as the FA Cup winners cruised 4-1.
R. Surendran scored a consolation goal for Pahang in stoppage time.