Welcome win for Kashima
Kashima Antlers collected their first win in seven matches with a 3-0 victory over relegation-threatened JEF United Chiba to move back to the top of the table. Shinzo Koroki put the hosts ahead in the ninth minute when he latched onto a fine through ball from Mitsuo Ogasawara and slotted home from close range.
Marquinhos then added a second for Kashima ten minutes later, volleying home a cross from Koroki. Substitute Yuzo Tashiro completed the scoring just two minutes after coming off the bench as the former Japan international broke down the left flank, beat his marker then advanced on goal before firing a shot beyond the goalkeeper.
"It is always important to collect three points, and we always aim to win every game," said Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveira. "I hope today's win can be a good influence for us in the remaining four matches."
Meanwhile, Gamba Osaka were held to a potentially costly goalless draw by Yokohama F. Marinos to remain in third with 51 points. Takahiro Futagawa returned for Gamba after missing the last game through injury, but the hosts struggled to break down Yokohama's solid defence.
Brazilian forwards Lucas and Pedro Junior both had chances while Yokohama came close through Daisuke Sakata and Kazuma Watanabe.
Elsewhere, Oita Trinita were relegated to Division Two after being held to a 1-1 draw by ten-man Kyoto Sanga. Oita took an early lead when Daisuke Takahashi scored in the seventh minute and things looked good for them when Kyoto defender Lee Jung-soo was sent off in the 15th minute after being shown his second yellow card.
However, Takenori Hayashi scored an equaliser in the 22nd minute for Kyoto. Oita have just 20 points and are unable to make up the 16 points needed for safety in the remaining games.
Finally, Yamagata edged hosts Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 with Katsuyuki Miyazawa's 58th-minute strike, while Vissel Kobe ended to a run of five games without victory with a 1-0 win over visiting Albirex Niigata thanks to a second-half goal from Ryosuke Matsuoka.