Uzbekistan smashed seven goals past Singapore and Bahrain won in Thailand as they remained the only teams with 100 percent records after three rounds of Asian World Cup qualifying.
Japan also took another step along the road to South Africa in 2010 by trouncing Oman 3-0 in Yokohama, with Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura scoring one goal and helping create another.
But it was not enough to put them on top of their group, with Bahrain eking out a 3-2 win in Bangkok, which moved them three points clear of Japan with three games left to play.
Milan Macala's side did not have it all their own way, with Thailand going to the break level at 2-2 before Sayed Mohamed Adnan scored the winner in the 57th minute.
“The important thing is that we have three points now,” said Macala, who was reluctant to say whether his side could make their first-ever World Cup finals after narrowly missing out on qualifying for Germany in 2006.
“We shouldn't dream about the future,” said the Czech.
Uzbekistan won 7-3 in Singapore in an edge-of-the-seat thriller to establish a six-point cushion on top of Group 4, although Saudi Arabia can cut that lead to three points if they beat Lebanon later in the day.
The hosts twice equalised after Timur Kapadze and then Victor Karpenko gave Rauf Inileev's side the lead, but a Server Djeparov double and another from Vitaliy Denisov sent the visitors in at half-time 5-2 ahead.
Aziz Ibragimov and Maksim Shatskikh completed the Uzbeks' scoring spree after the restart.
It was an impressive return to form for Japan after their shock 1-0 loss to Bahrain in March, and coach Takeshi Okada was happy to see his side bounce back.
“We got pretty good rhythm from the beginning. The early first goal made it a bit easier for us, but my players slowed down afterwards,” he said.
“However, Oman were not the real Oman today. I don't think we have got past the mountain yet. I think we just made one step forward.”
Skipper Yuji Nakazawa opened Japan's account in the 10th minute when Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo lofted the ball in from a corner and the big Yokohama defender headed home.
They went two up 12 minutes later when Nakamura sent a long ball into the Omani box which was picked up by Brazilian-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka. He found Yoshito Okubo, who made no mistake.
Four minutes after the break Nakamura put the game beyond doubt, latching onto a ball just outside the area and letting loose a rocket that gave goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi no chance.
Oman hardly created a chance and will need to rethink their tactics ahead of the return leg at home on June 7 if they want to remain in the race.
“Japan deserved the victory today. Their tactics to score goals worked very well,” said Oman's Uruguayan coach Julio Cesar Ribas Vlahovich.
“My players can play better, but the early goal made them rush too much and they couldn't play their normal game.”
Thailand's hopes of progressing to the final phase of qualifying are all but over after three losses out of three, but coach Charnwit Polcheewin refused to throw in the towel.
“We won't give up,” he said.
Australia's 1-0 win over Iraq on Sunday put them on top of Group 1 with seven points. Qatar (three points) play China (two points) later Monday in Doha with another loss for the Chinese team potentially disastrous.
Jordan's shock 2-2 draw with South Korea on Saturday leaves them second in Group 3 with four points, one behind the South Koreans and North Korea, who drew 0-0 with Turkmenistan in Ashgabat.
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