Urawa Reds secured their place in the 2016 J.League Championship with a 3-0 win over Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Sunday.
Aware of their opportunity, the hosts went straight on the offensive and took the lead when Kazuhiko Chiba comically stabbed his clearance of Yuki Muto’s delivery past his own goalkeeper.
And despite Sanfrecce subsequently having their own opportunities and pressing Mihailo Petrovic’s men, their lack of killer instinct was ruthlessly exploited by the Reds.
It fell to Shinzo Koroki and Toshiyuki Takagi to net in the second half 10 minutes apart, sending their team into the end-of-season title showdown with aplomb.
The result was also one that sees Petrovic’s side maintain their three-point lead at the top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League Second Stage standings, as Yu Kobayashi netted a dramatic winner to lift Kawasaki Frontale over Yokohama F.Marinos 3-2 to proceed to the Championship as well.
The thrilling tie at Todoroki Stadium went into 10 minutes of stoppage time as Kobayashi looped a header over F.Marinos custodian Tetsuya Enomoto, undoing the visitors’ work fighting back from two goals down in the 96th and 98th minutes of play.
There were honours even in Gamba Osaka’s late 3-3 draw at home to FC Tokyo, with Hajime Moriyasu thanking Hiroki Fujiharu for his last-gasp equaliser after Sota Hirayama had put Tokyo 3-2 up just one minute before.
Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers sealed a 2-0 result at Albirex Niigata while Kashiwa Reysol scraped to a 1-0 win against Ventforet Kofu.
Jubilo Iwata were unable to find a breakthrough in a 0-0 result against Shonan Bellmare and Sagan Tosu were held to a 1-1 stalemate at Omiya Ardija.
Troubled Nagoya Grampus finally had reason to celebrate when they sealed a hard-fought 2-1 win at Vegalta Sendai, as Vissel Kobe easily surged past Avispa Fukuoka 4-1 at LEVEL-5 Stadium.