Arsenal failed to profit when they lost 2-1 at Tigre and remained on 23 points, three behind Newell's and level with San Lorenzo.
All three goals at the Gigante de Arroyito came during a pulsating first half in the first Rosario "clasico" in three and a half years following Central's relegation in 2010.
The victory took Central's unbeaten run to five while ending Newell's five-match winning streak.
Defender Alejandro Donatti headed home side Central into the lead from a free kick in the 12th minute.
Newell's responded with a fine lob from Pablo Perez that was just wide before Maxi Rodriguez equalised in the 16th.
The winger came into the box from the left, nudged the ball towards the net but goalkeeper Mauricio Caranta got a touch and it came back off his left-hand post only for Rodriguez to steal in and touch it home.
It was Rodriguez's seventh goal in six successive matches including Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Uruguay on Tuesday when he scored two.
Central scored the winner just before the half hour thanks to a poor kick out of his box by goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman.
The ball fell to the unmarked Antonio Medina, who steered a low pass back into the box where striker Carlos Luna stumbled but managed to head it towards the right where Hernan Encina raced in to score.
Newell's striker Victor Figueroa missed a chance for another equaliser when his shot hit the post on the stroke of halftime.
San Lorenzo recovered from losing 3-0 to Arsenal in the final of the Copa Argentina knockout competition on Wednesday with a 3-0 home victory over All Boys on Saturday.
- Sports & Recreation
- Maxi Rodriguez