Omiya Ardija emerged 1-0 victors in the Saitama derby against Urawa Reds, allowing Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers to pull within a point at the top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League.
Akimi Barada struck the only goal of the game at NACK5 Stadium on Sunday to send local bragging rights to the strugglers, who still remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
It was a result that was first exploited by Antlers and then Gamba Osaka later in the day, with the reigning J1 League champions seeing off Sagan Tosu 2-1 thanks to strikes from Mu Kanazaki and Gen Shoji cancelling out Yohei Toyoda’s opener.
Ritsu Doan’s 64th-minute winner against Yokohama F. Marinos then lifted Gamba level on 18 points with Antlers, as the duo battle to take top spot from the Reds at the summit.
Vissel Kobe’s early momentum has all but faded out after a third straight loss, the 1-0 defeat to Ventforet Kofu at Noevir Stadium allowing FC Tokyo to overtake them in the standings.
The capital outfit saw off Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 to leave the fallen Japanese champions treading water at the bottom of the table, with only Omiya and Albirex Niigata - 1-0 losers at home to Kashiwa Reysol on the day - propping them up.
Hiroshi Kiyotake struck to ensure Cerezo Osaka continued their solid start back in the top flight with a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale while Vegalta Sendai distanced themselves from the drop zone with a 3-0 victory at Shimizu S-Pulse inspired by Chrislan’s brace.
Consadole Sapporo, on the other hand, remain in the thick of the relegation fight after they were unable to hold on to their early 2-0 lead at Jubilo Iwata, the latter going on to fight back for a 2-2 stalemate after the hour mark.