Urawa Reds somehow managed to emerge from matchday 11 with their lead at the top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League intact, despite being fought to a 4-4 standstill at Vegalta Sendai.
Sunday’s helter-skelter match at Yurtec Stadium would start ordinarily enough, Kim Min Tae opening the scoring before Yuki Abe pegged the Reds back right before half time.
But the game would afterwards explode to life in an intense half-hour spell, which began when Shinzo Koroki and Takahiro Sekine put the J.League leaders 3-1 up in the space of two minutes.
But Vegalta, who entered the relegation fight earlier in the week, roared back spectacularly when Hiroaki Okuno and Hirofumi Watanabe brought the hosts level by the 65th minute.
Vegalta striker Ryang Yong Gi then put his side back in the lead when he conjured a goal out of nothing, though the drama was not over as Koroki grabbed his brace with the equaliser and final goal of a thrilling game just a minute later.
The Reds nevertheless retained their single-point lead over FC Tokyo at the summit following the latter’s 0-1 home loss to Kashima Antlers - an end to their four-match winning run.
Toninho Cerezo’s men deservedly grabbed the opener in the 34th minute through Shoma Doi after capitalising on some slack Tokyo defending, with the capital team unable to respond in a dominant second half.
Their slip allowed champions Gamba Osaka to shave some deficit to Tokyo in the table, racking up their seventh win in the last eight games with a 1-0 victory at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Right after being instrumental to Gamba’s progress to the AFC Champions League round of 16, Lins rose highest to head home his team’s winner and put them level on 22 points with their opponents of the day.
Things are tightening at the bottom of the table too, after Shimizu S-Pulse snatched a 2-1 result - their first league win since the opening day of the season - at Vissel Kobe, Mitchell Duke scoring his first goal for the club in the process.
Earlier, Romero Frank had joined Diego, the latter grabbing a brace, in helping Montedio Yamagata in smashing three without reply past Kashiwa Reysol, who have endured a disappointing domestic campaign in 2015.
Later, Matsumoto Yamaga appeared to be heading towards a vital win at Sagan Tosu, but the hosts’ Daichi Kamada cancelled out Yuki Okubo’s opener at the death to result in a 1-1 draw.
Shonan Bellmare have at least revived their fortunes in the past week, cumulating in a 1-0 win at bottom side Ventforet Kofu courtesy of Shuhei Otsuki’s left-footed piledriver.
Yokohama F. Marinos triumphed over relegation-threatened Albirex Niigata by the same scoreline, as Yuta Mikado showed good composure to slot low to Hiroki Iikura’s left.
Sunday’s trend of single-goal victories had started with Nagoya Grampus proving unable to stave off defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale, with Yoshito Okubo netting a deserved winner to help the guests win 1-0.