Midfielder Koji Nakata scored the only goal as defending champions Kashima Antlers beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0 to move up to third in the J-League standings today.
The goal came in the 40th minute when Nakata flicked the ball in from close range.
"I don't know what happened, because I was concentrating on my play, but I'm really glad that the ball went in," said Nakata.
Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira said: "We missed (Kashima's key player Mitsuo) Ogasawara, but we also won the championship in 2008 when he had been sidelined due to an injury. Although we missed him, everybody is working very hard to win."
Kashima have now 40 points and sit four points behind leaders Nagoya Grampus, who will play Montedio Yamagata tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Cerezo Osaka were held to a 1-1 draw by Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Shimizu crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Omiya Ardija.
Gamba Osaka defeated Albirex Niigata 2-1, while Yokohama whipped Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 thanks to a second-half double from Shingo Hyodo.
In other games today, Jubilo Iwata sent Shonan Bellmare to the bottom of the table with a 3-2 win, while Kyoto Sanga got out of the humiliating place with a 3-0 win over Vissel Kobe.