Yuya Osako scored a stoppage-time winner from 40 meters out as Vissel Kobe saw off Urawa Reds 2-1 away from home Sunday to retain their two-point lead at the top of the J-League first division.
Defending champions Yokohama F Marinos stayed hot on Kobe's heels by beating Cerezo Osako 2-0 at home to move up to 63 points with two games to go, while third-place Urawa had their slim title hopes dashed with their loss, which left them on 54.
"Regardless of what's happening at other venues, we'll be out focusing on the match in front of us and ourselves," said Osako, whose J1-leading 22nd goal edged Kobe closer to their first J1 title.
Osako released attacker Daiju Sasaki down the right on a counter in the 20th minute for the best chance of the first half at Saitama Stadium, but a last-ditch tackle from Urawa defender Marius Hoibraten diverted a shot from a tight angle into the side netting.
Urawa's Thailand attacker Ekanit Panya had a close-range shot saved by Kobe keeper Daiya Maekawa a minute into the second half, set up by a fine ball on the floor by Tomoaki Okubo, before the high-octane encounter finally saw a goal in the 72nd minute, set up by Osako.
The former Japan forward headed right-back Ryo Hatsuse's cross to the far post back across goal, enabling Brazilian defender Matheus Thuler to nod the ball home with a powerful header.
Former Japan and Porto attacker Shoya Nakajima came on five minutes later and nearly created a goal with his diagonal ball to Okubo, whose volley was saved with three minutes to go.
Urawa leveled a minute into stoppage time when Guinea forward Jose Kante powered his way from the left before slotting a loose ball off the post into the near bottom corner.
Needing three points stay in the title race, a desperate Urawa side sent keeper Shusaku Nishikawa up for a free kick in the sixth minute of stoppage time -- but saw the move immediately backfire.
Maekawa caught the ball and pumped it up field to Osako, who lofted his long-range shot over two backpedaling Urawa players and into the empty net.
"I knew their keeper had gone up. That ball really carried all of our emotions," Osako said.
At Nissan Stadium, Takuma Nishimura and Ken Matsubara both struck the bar before Yan Matheus nodded home the 41st-minute opener, sneaking in at the far post after his cross from the left wing was headed back across by Elber.
Anderson Lopes, spearheading Marinos' Brazilian triumvirate, set up their second a minute into first-half stoppage time after getting released on a counter by center-back Ryotaro Tsunoda. Lopes, who has 21 goals this term, fed the ball to his left for Elber, who curled his first-time effort inside the far post.
Kawasaki Frontale grabbed a late 3-3 draw at home against Kyoto Sanga in the day's other game.