Japanese international forward Shinji Okazaki came to the rescue of Shimizu S-Pulse Saturday, scoring an equaliser against Gamba Osaka as Shimizu held on to their lead at the top of the J-League.
Shimizu were trailing 1-0 to a penalty in the 40th minute by Osaka skipper Tomokazu Myojin but finally broke through the Osaka defence with Norwegian forward Frode Johnsen setting up Okazaki's leveller in the 70th minute.
"It was a game that we should have won. We need to practise harder," said Shimizu coach Kenta Hasegawa.
Osaka coach Akira Nishino said: "It was a draw after we defended and defended. With our current team conditions, probably it was the best we could do against Shimizu. My players defended very well today."
Undefeated Shimizu have four wins and three draws for 15 points, two points above Nagoya Grampus, Urawa Red Diamonds and Kawasaki Frontale, all of whom have a game in hand.
Nagoya conceded a late equaliser when Albirex Niigata substitute forward Hideo Oshima scored with just a minute left on the clock to level the scores at 1-1.
Urawa and Kawasaki are to play each other on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Shunsuke Nakamura sent a pin-point pass from a free kick to set up Daisuke Sakata's goal to give Yokohama Marinos a 1-0 win over Montedio Yamagata. Vissel Kobe gained their first win in six games, beating Vegalta Sendai 1-0, while FC Tokyo held Kyoto Sanga to a 1-1 draw with a penalty in the 73rd minute. Jubilo Iwata drew with Omiya Ardija 1-1.