The UK-based so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the forces had seized two villages to the south of Maaret al-Numan on Friday, which gave them the strategic edge they need to return the city under government control.
"Deir Sharqi and Deir Gharbi [villages] are the keys to capturing Maaret al-Numan," it reported.
The Syrian forces were now only four kilometers (two miles) from Maaret al-Numan, it added, saying as many as 23 were killed during the battles that enabled the advance.
Over the past many years, Damascus has been enlisting the assistance of its allies, Iran and Russia, to help it contain the foreign-backed militancy and terrorism that has cost thousands of lives since affecting the country in 2011.
President Bashar al-Assad has invariably pledged to bring back every inch of Syria’s soil under sovereign control.