Defending J-League champions Kashima Antlers were held to a goalless draw by Albirex Niigata on Sunday, but maintained their slim one-point lead in the standings.
With three games left in the season, Kashima are at 54 points, ahead of Urawa Red Diamonds on 53 points, Nagoya Grampus and Oita Trinita on 52 points, Kawasaki Frontale and FC Tokyo on 51 points.
"We kept the momentum from the beginning and kept up taking the initiative till the end, but we couldn't take the chance," said Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira. "We had a chance to stretch the lead in the standings and we couldn't...that was what I was disappointed about."
In other games, Oita drew with JEF United Chiba 0-0, while Vissel Kobe whipped Tokyo Verdy 2-0.
On Saturday, Urawa defeated second-division-bound Consadole Sapporo 2-1, Nagoya bowed to Kashiwa Reysol 2-1, and Kawasaki lost to Omiya Ardija 2-1.