With Sanfrecce Hiroshima not in action until Sunday, both teams knew the winners at Kashima Soccer Stadium would move to the summit for at least the short term. The hosts led 2-1 after goals from Yasushi Endoh and Davi, either side of Jung Woo-young's reply, but paid dearly for the dismissal of Takeshi Aoki in the 65th minute. Within four minutes Kobe were ahead, Marquinhos tucking away the resulting penalty before Keijiro Ogawa netted the winner.
Urawa Red Diamonds and Sagan Tosu were also victorious on Saturday to keep themselves within a win of the leaders. A 68th-minute goal by Tomoya Ugojin was enough for Urawa to beat Kawasaki Frontale 1-0, while Sagan won 3-0 at Vegalta Sendai. They scored in the final minute of each half, through Ryuhei Niwa and substitute Ryota Hayasaka, in addition to Kodai Watanabe's 59th-minute own goal.
Shimizu S-Pulse won 4-0 away to bottom club Tokushima Vortis, who have lost all eight of their games this season and conceded 26 goals to the one they have scored. Milivoje Novakovic scored twice in the first 20 minutes and Toshiyuki Takagi and Genki Omae made the game safe in the second half.
Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 2-1 with all the goals coming from the 83rd minute onwards. Daiki Niwa's opener was cancelled out by Kosuke Kikuchi, but substitute Yasuyuki Konno scored the winner just four minutes after his introduction.
Kashiwa Reysol and Yokohama F Marinos drew 0-0 in the day's other game.