OSAKA – Gamba Osaka maintained its slender lead in the J. League first division after a 3-3 draw at home to Kashima Antlers in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.
Gamba twice came from behind and looked set to go four points clear of Kashima when Brazilian striker Araujo made it 3-2 late on with his second of the match only for Alex Mineiro to ram home to give Kashima a share of the spoils deep into injury time.
With nine games of the season left to play, Gamba has 48 points with Kashima on 47 and Urawa Reds, Jubilo Iwata and JEF United Chiba all still in with a shout on 41.
Mitsuo Ogasawara opened the scoring at Expo Stadium, stabbing home to finish a neat move involving Masashi Motoyama and Mineiro after 10 minutes.
But Gamba hit back in the 24th as Fernandinho released Takahiro Futagawa, who sent over a left-wing cross for Araujo to sweep into an empty net at the far post.
Kashima responded with a goal from Ogasawara, his left-wing free-kick sent into the box eluding everyone and nestling in the far corner of the net.
But Sogahata handed Gamba a lifeline when he mishit a routine back pass straight to Masashi Oguro, who gratefully accepted the gift to slot home his 15th of the campaign.
Oguro then created the third for Araujo to take his tally to the season to 27 before Minerio responded straight from the restart with the equalizer.
Elsewhere, former Japan striker Masashi Nakayama celebrated his 300th league appearance with the winner from the penalty spot to keep Iwata’s title hopes alive with a 1-0 win over visiting Kashiwa Reysol.
The win put Masakuni Yamamoto’s side level on points with third place Urawa, which was held to a 0-0 draw at home to Yokohama F. Marinos, and Chiba, which came from behind to beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 at home thanks to Seiichiro Maki’s last-gasp winner.
In Saturday’s other late game, former Japan forward Akinori Nishizawa was on target as Cerezo Osaka beat Nagoya Grampus Eight 3-1 away and stayed sixth on 40 points.
At the foot of the table, bottom club Vissel Kobe and next-to-last Tokyo Verdy finished 1-1. Kawasaki Frontale won 2-1 against Omiya Ardija.