Nagoya Grampus became the fourth Japanese team to make the last 16 of the AFC Champions League on Wednesday, while Newcastle Jets kept Australian interest alive.
Yoshizumi Ogawa scored twice as Nagoya beat Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai 4-1, ensuring they secured top spot in Group E with 11 points from five games, five ahead of Ulsan and Newcastle, who defeated Beijing Guoan 2-1.
Defending champions Gamba Osaka, who kept their 100 per cent record intact with a 1-0 win over China's Shandong Luneng, have already qualified for the knockout stage, along with Kawasaki Frontale and Kashima Antlers. Saudi Arabia's Ettifaq and Uzbek giants Pakhtakor are also through. Progressing from Group B are Saudi's Al Shabab and Iran's Persepolis, with the two teams befitting from Al Gharafa of Qatar losing 1-0 in the last minute to Al Shabab.
Ogawa set the wheels in motion for Nagoya with a header after 14 minutes, with Yuki Maki and Davi also on target before Ogawa completed the rout 18 minutes from time.
In Australia, Newcastle Jets stayed in contention for the last 16 with two goals in the final six minutes to sink Beijing Guoan. The Jets squeezed home with goals from striker Sasho Petrovski and substitute Sean Rooney after the Chinese Super League team had looked poised for victory following Ryan Griffiths' strike in the 69th minute.
But Petrovski equalised in the 88th minute with Rooney netting the winner with just 30 seconds remaining of four minutes injury time. The win means Newcastle, who are now second in Group E behind Nagoya, can go through to the play-off stage if they earn a point in their final group match against Ulsan in South Korea on 20 May.
Gamba are the form team of the tournament and a strike by Yasuhito Endo just before half-time against Shandong means they have won all five of their matches so far. It leaves the Chinese side on seven points alongside Korea's FC Seoul with one match to go in Group F.
West Asia contest
Group A will go down to the wire as to who ends up topping it after Uzbek powerhouses Pakhtakor beat bottom-placed Al Ahli of the UAE 2-0. The Uzbek side have already secured a place in the next round as have Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal who ensured they stayed in the hunt for top place by beating Iranian outfit Saba Battery 1-0 away.
The two will fight it out in a mouthwatering head to head battle in Saudi Arabia on 20 May with the Uzbeks needing just a point to finish top. However, one of Pakhtakor scorers Alexander Geynrikh believes his side has what it takes to get the point they need in Saudi Arabia. "It will be a difficult match but we will be battling hard for first place in the group and I think we will do it," he said.
Group B remains a three-horse race despite a shake-up of the table following the withdrawal of Sharjah this week. The UAE club, who pulled out to focus on escaping relegation in their domestic league, were on zero points and all their previous results are considered null and void.
Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab could only draw 0-0 at home to Al Gharafa, but it ensured they stayed a point ahead of Wednesday's opponents in the group. The top team in each of the eight groups will play at home against one of the second-placed sides in the round of 16, which will be held in the west zone on 27 May and the east zone on 24 June.