Forward Shinzo Koroki inspired defending champions Kashima Antlers to come from behind to claim a 2-1 victory over Kyoto Purple Sanga.
After going down 1-0, Koroki set up a goal for Ryuta Sasaki in the 84th minute and then scored the decider himself, converting a rebound from close range in injury time.
"We made a careless mistake to lose a goal and it made the game difficult, but my players never gave up until the end. It resulted in this victory," said Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira. "We will have tough games this month, but my players have prepared very well for those games, so we are going to play together game by game."
The victory lifted Kashima to second place in the standings on nine points, only one point behind Albirex Niigata, the winners over Yokohama Marinos 2-1. Niigata clinched the victory when forward Kisho Yano finished off a pass from Korean forward Cho Young-Cheol in injury time.
The leaders are followed by Asian club champions Gamba Osaka, Nagoya Grampus and Urawa Red Diamonds on seven points each. Japan international midfielder Yasuhito Endo cashed in on a penalty for an equaliser as Osaka drew with Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-2, while Nagoya crashed to a 3-1 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale.
Urawa defeated Oita Trinita 1-0 thanks to defender Masato Morishige's own goal in the 42nd minute. In other games, Shingo Akamine's solitary goal enabled FC Tokyo to beat Jubilo Iwata 1-0, while Kashiwa Reysol managed to draw 2-2, with Masahiro Koga nodding home in injury time.