The top three teams stayed on pace with victories on Thursday as the 2016 MEIJI YASUDA J2 League continued to approach its climax.
Julinho’s goal just three minutes after kick-off set the pace for Consadole Sapporo, who were rarely pressured in their 4-1 win over struggling Kamatamare Sanuki.
The Sapporo Dome residents could clinch automatic promotion to next season’s J1 League as early as Sunday when they travel to Tokushima Vortis.
Matsumoto Yamaga held on to second place with Hiroyuki Takasaki’s effort the difference-maker in a 1-0 win over Roasso Kumamoto.
They continue to be pursued by Shimizu S-Pulse, who won 4-1 against Kyoto Sanga on the strength of goals from current J2 scoring leader Chong Tese and captain Genki Omae, who have combined for a stunning 42 goals this season.
A 2-1 home win against Thespa Kusatsu saw last-place FC Gifu level on points with Zweigen Kanazawa in 21st and Giravanz Kitakyushu in 20th, although they continue to occupy the automatic relegation spot as a result of their league-worst goal difference.
The 40th round of the J2 League takes place on Sunday with a full slate of matches beginning at 13:00 JST.