Asian club champions Urawa Red Diamonds missed their chance to top the J-League, conceding a goal in the final seconds to draw 2-2 with Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday.
Urawa seemed assured of a 2-1 win when Yuichiro Nagai exchanged passes with fellow forward Naohiro Takahara to score a late goal. But just 20 seconds before the final whistle, Brazilian striker Franca struck home an equaliser from outside the Urawa area to earn a draw.
Earlier, Japan international defender Yuki Abe's goal in the 34th minute cancelled out Kashiwa's 18th-minute goal scored by Minoru Suganuma.
"It was really a good game, but it's too bad to draw after the 94th minute and 25 seconds. We kept putting pressure for 90 minutes and created some chances," said Urawa's German coach Gert Engels. "We took the second goal at the last moment, but we shouldn't have drawn 2-2 in the end. We must keep our concentration until the very end," he added.
Surprising loss for leaders
Despite their disappointment, a surprising 3-1 defeat for defending champions Kashima Antlers at the hands of bottom side JEF United Chiba means Urawa have closed the gap at the top to just one point.
Eddy Bosnar of Australia opened the scoring for Chiba in the 42nd minute and Japan international forward Seiichiro Maki added two more in the 68th and 77th minutes to ensure the victory.
Kashima remain on top of the table with 10 wins, five draws and five losses for 35 points, ahead of Urawa on 34 points, Nagoya Grampus and Kawasaki Frontale on 33 points, and Oita Trinita and Gamba Osaka on 32 points.
Nagoya lost 1-0 to FC Tokyo with Sota Hirayama scoring the only goal in the 35th minute, while Masaru Kurotsu scored twice to give Kawasaki a 2-1 win over Kyoto Purple Sanga. Oita drew with Shimizu S-Pulse 2-2, and Osaka lost to Yokohama Marinos 2-1.
In other games, Omiya Ardija defeated Consadole Sapporo 2-1, Vissel Kobe edged past Jubilo Iwata 1-0, and Tokyo Verdy thumped Albirex Niigata 4-0.