Kashima Antlers suffered a massive setback at Yokohama F. Marinos in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League, losing 3-2 to allow Kawasaki Frontale to close within two points at the top.
Go Oiwa’s champions found themselves two goals down within 15 minutes as Jun Amano added to Sho Ito’s opener, but there was still hope as Antlers fought back to make it 2-2.
Shuto Yamamoto and Naomichi Ueda struck either side of the break to restore parity and the guests even had a goal disallowed for offside, but Keita Endo had other plans.
The teenage winger, on as a substitute after the hour mark, notched F. Marinos’ winner in the 74th-minute to end Antlers’ hopes of a win and let Frontale come two points to the top.
The second-placed outfit blew past Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-0 which leaves Antlers looking nervously over their shoulders in the title run-in.
FC Tokyo faltered 2-1 at home to Consadole Sapporo, the latter whom are continuing to pull clear of the relegation zone as the battle to survive tightens.
Shimizu S-Pulse, Albirex Niigata and Omiya Ardija’s draws with Vegalta Sendai, Jubilo Iwata and Kashiwa Reysol respectively did not help them in their bids to stay in the top-flight.
Lukas Podolski scored again for Vissel Kobe but that did not prove enough for a result, with Sagan Tosu snatching a 2-1 win at Noevir Stadium.
Gamba Osaka now have the opportunity to overtake Vissel in the table with a win against AFC Champions League finalists Urawa Reds when they take them on on Sunday evening.