Goals from former West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic and Wang Shenchao in the first half put Shanghai in the driver’s seat before Brazilian midfielder Oscar got the third.
Shanghai moved to 17 points from seven games, four clear of second-placed Beijing Guoan who have a game in hand.
Rafa Benitez’s Dalian looked set to upset champions Guangzhou going into halftime with a two-goal lead, but Fabio Cannavaro’s side produced a stirring second-half comeback to take a point.
Wang Yaopeng put Dalian ahead before Swedish forward Sam Larsson extended their advantage.
Former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho reduced the deficit in the 74th before Brazilian-born forward Fernandinho completed the comeback.