Shonan Bellmare have spent most of the season fighting relegation, but they are clear of the drop zone after topping Yokohama FC, 2-1, with a furious late comeback.
Yokohama entered the match with seven points from their last three matches, taking them from the bottom of the table to a chance for a miracle escape from the drop. They were in great form and it showed as they threatened early on and, while it took until the 63rd minute, their strong play paid off when Yusuke Matsuo gave them a lead.
The pressure shifted to Shonan, who needed a result. A loss would not just keep them in the drop zone, but move Yokohama level on points with them and further complicate their bid for safety. So when Shonan fell behind, they needed to respond, and respond they did.
A terrific pass by Wellington in the 78th minute played Yuki Ohashi in alone on goal and the forward made no mistake with a clever finish to bring the match level. Shonan were level and were no longer on the verge if a disastrous result, but that was not enough for them. They wanted all three points and to jump out of the bottom four.
Shonan pushed on and pressured the Yokohama goal, then in the 88th minute they broke through. A corner kick saw them direct a bouncing shot towards goal, where Naoki Yamada leapt to beat the Yokohama defenders from clearing the ball, the goalkeeper from collecting it and redirecting it into the back of the net for a stunning winner that sent Lemon Gas Stadium Hiratsuka wild.
Shonan now sit on 32 points, good for 16th place, the final safe spot. They lead Tokushima Vortis by just one point and Oita Trinita by three after the two sides drew over the weekend. With five matches to go in the season, the relegation fight is far from over, but Shonan are safe from now and if they can avoid the drop, their comeback against Yokohama may prove to be the difference.