Kashima Antlers strengthened their position at the top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League after seeing off title rivals Cerezo Osaka 1-0 on Saturday.
The surprise packages had seen their title charge fall off in recent weeks, but were out to gain some ground on the reigning champions in front of the Yanmar Stadium faithful.
However, the clash appeared to be headed for a draw, until Leandro popped up in the 88th minute to tuck home what could be a final nail in the coffin of Cerezo’s charge.
Yokohama F. Marinos took full advantage of their rivals slip-up to overtake them in the table - Hugo Vieira’s late winner proving enough for a 1-0 result against FC Tokyo.
Holding on to the lead was something Sanfrecce Hiroshima remained incapable of, as Patric’s opener was cancelled out at Omiya Ardija as the guests settled for a 1-1 draw that sees them remain one point behind their hosts of the day.
It was the same story for Lukas Podolski’s Vissel Kobe, as the German star’s opener in the second half was not enough to turn around their fortunes at Jubilo Iwata.
Kengo Kawamata and Takuya Matsuura struck swiftly soon after to send Vissel plummeting to a 2-1 loss.
Gamba Osaka proved the far more clinical side in their 3-1 win at Sagan Tosu meanwhile, while Kashiwa Reysol could only draw 1-1 with Albirex Niigata and Consadole Sapporo kept themselves above the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory over Vegalta Sendai.