Omiya Ardija suffered defeat for just the second time this season as Urawa Reds slumped to a crushing 4-0 loss to Kawasaki Frontale.
Ardija were unbeaten in their previous four games but the league leaders failed to recover from a two-goal half-time deficit away to Yokohama F. Marinos, eventually losing 2-1.
Brazilian Marquinhos opened the scoring at the Nissan Stadium in the 22nd minute before Manabu Saito grabbed his second goal of the season before the break.
The visitors pushed hard to get back into the game but were unable to break down a resolute home defence, with Tomoki Imai grabbing a consolation in the fourth minute of injury time.
Urawa Reds had the chance to close the gap at the top but they were overpowered by Kawasaki Frontale at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium.
Two goals in as many minutes from Kengo Nakamura and Renatinho saw the home side 2-0 up after 30 minutes. The game was all but over shortly before half-time when Masaki Yamamoto made it 3-0.
Yoshito Okubo’s penalty in the 48th minute ensured that there would be no dramatic comeback for Urawa.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of that slip-up to register a 1-0 success at home to Cerezo Osaka, moving them into second place, just three points adrift of Ardija.
But they left it late to as midfielder Yojiro Takahagi netted in the 90th minute at the EDION Stadium.
The title challengers have now won three straight games in the J.League.
At the bottom of the table Oita Trinita’s miserable season continued as they were defeated 3-1 away to Shimizu S-Pulse.
After a goalless opening 45 minutes, a devastating 20-minute spell crushed Trinita’s hopes.
Yasuhiro Hiraoka opened the scoring in the 66th minute before adding a second nine minutes later. With Trinita dejected Hideki Ishige compounded their misery with four minutes remaining.
Yu Kijima reduced the deficit in injury time, but they remain six points adrift of safety.
Sagan Tosu’s 3-2 loss away to Nagoya Grampus leaves them looking nervously over their shoulders as fellow relegation candidates Shonan Bellmare and Jubilo Iwata both picked up points.
Yuzo Iwakami scored the only goal as Shonan ensured Ventforet Kofu remained in danger at the bottom of the table with a 1-0 away win, while Jubilo Iwata were denied a maximum haul as Makoto Kakuda’s 89th minute strike cancelled out Ryoichi Maeda’s penalty.
Elsewhere, Tokyo stormed to a 3-0 away win at Albirex Niigata at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium and Kashiwa Reysol earned a 2-1 success over Kashima Antlers at the National Olympic Stadium.
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