Itsuki Someno scored a dramatic late penalty Saturday to secure Tokyo Verdy's return to the J-League top flight for the first time since 2008 with a 1-1 draw against Shimizu S-Pulse in the promotion playoff final.
Hosting the final as the top-ranked side in the playoffs for teams finishing third through sixth in the J2, Verdy needed only a draw to clinch promotion at Tokyo's National Stadium.
But the capital city club, who won the first two J-League championships as Verdy Kawasaki in 1993 and 1994, looked set for elimination in front of 53,264 before grabbing the vital equalizer in the sixth minute of added time.
"We've kept the fans waiting for a long time," said Verdy captain and youth product Koki Morita, who gave away a second-half penalty that led to Shimizu's opener.
"We can finally play on the J1 stage next year, and we hope you (the fans) will fight alongside us again."
Shimizu, who finished fourth and needed a win for promotion back to J1, will remain in the J2 for at least a second season following their demotion at the end of the 2022 campaign.
S-Pulse attacked from the start of the clash between two of the "original 10" J-League teams, with Carlinhos Junior blasting his header over the bar off a corner in the eighth minute, unmarked Takashi Inui also firing over a loose ball in the 28th minute, and Thiago Santana failing to connect on a deflected cross two minutes later.
After piling on more pressure to no avail at the break, Shimizu finally took the lead in the 63rd minute through 2022 J1 top scorer Santana's penalty after the ball bounced into midfielder Morita's left arm.
A desperate Verdy missed a big chance to equalize in the last minute of regulation when Someno controlled right-back Kazuya Miyahara's ball into the box on his chest and volleyed at the goal, only for Shimizu center-back Yuji Takahashi to make a last-ditch block and divert it out for a corner.
Verdy had eight additional minutes to score the vital goal, and after Morita dragged his shot wide, Someno drew a reckless challenge from Takahashi just inside the box down the right to win the penalty, which the forward duly converted, leaving Shimizu not enough time to find a winner.
"From now on, we have to become a regular J1 side capable of challenging for the title. The real battle starts here," Verdy manager Hiroshi Jofuku said.