A brace from Tsukasa Shiotani was instrumental for Sanfrecce Hiroshima as they swept past Albirex Niigata 4-2 on Saturday.
The matchday 13 encounter had been crucial for Sanfrecce to establish themselves firmly in the running for the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League title.
And the reemerging side quickly signalled their intentions against Albirex, with Shiotani grabbing the opener in the opening 20 minutes, and Douglas doubling it in the 37th minute.
Takuma Asano also struck in the second half before Shiotani completed his brace, Albirex’s goals near the end of either period failing to unduly trouble their hosts.
The win means Hajime Moriyasu’s outfit now solely occupy second spot, after FC Tokyo endured a 0-1 home loss to Nagoya Grampus, their second league defeat in a row.
On the other hand, Urawa Reds, who inflicted a 4-1 defeat on the capital side last week, appear unstoppable, notching their 12th game unbeaten with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Kashima Antlers.
Mihailo Petrovic’s men showed remarkable resolve to win the clash despite Ryota Moriwaki’s own-goal handed Antlers the lead in the 67th minute.
Yuki Muto headed in the Reds’ equaliser shortly after the temporary breakthrough, before Takahiro Sekine’s winner off the crossbar after cutting in from the left restored his side’s four-point advantage at the top of the table.
Yokohama F.Marinos likewise continued their impressive rise this season, moving into fourth spot after they swept to an impressive 3-0 win at Matsumoto Yamaga.
Last term’s dark horses Sagan Tosu have been unable to show much consistency this time around, losing 3-2 at Kawasaki Frontale despite Yohei Toyoda establishing himself as joint-top scorer with his latest strike.
Things appear more bleak at the bottom of the table, after Shimizu S-Pulse stumbled to a 4-0 defeat at Shonan Bellmare, the hosts scoring three times in the second half, Kaoru Takayama finishing with a double, alone.
Montedio Yamagata looked powerless to avoid a 0-1 loss to Vissel Kobe at ND Soft Stadium despite dominating in terms of chances, and are in danger of being sucked into the relegation zone.
Ventforet Kofu at last moved off the bottom of the table however, old boy Bare netting the single goal of the game as Satoru Sakuma’s men clinched their second win in a row.