Kashima Antlers crashed to a 3-2 defeat away to FC Tokyo as the race for the J. League title took a fresh twist on Sunday.
Victory in the capital would have taken Oswaldo Oliveira’s side four points clear at the top of the table with four games left after closest rival Nagoya Grampus drew and Oita Trinita lost on Saturday.
But goals from Brazilian striker Cabore, Yuto Nagatomo and substitute Yohei Otake saw Tokyo avenge its 4-1 defeat at Kashima earlier in the season and gave renewed hope to Kawasaki Frontale and Urawa Reds, which both closed the gap on Kashima with crucial wins.
Kashima leads the standings with 53 points, one ahead of Grampus, held 0-0 at home by struggling Jubilo Iwata, while Kawasaki and Oita, which lost 1-0 at Vissel Kobe, are another point back.
Kengo Nakamura, Hiroyuki Taniguchi and Juninho were on target for Frontale in a comfortable 3-1 win over relegated Consadole Sapporo, while Hajime Hosogai struck the decider as Urawa put the disappointment of its Asian Champions League exit in midweek behind it and moved within three points of Kashima with a 1-0 win at Albirex Niigata.
At Ajinomoto Stadium, Kashima fell behind in the 57th minute when Cabore shrugged off Takeshi Aoki at the near post to head home Naohiro Ishikawa’s corner, but the reigning champion hit straight back through Shinzo Koroki’s diving header after good work from substitute Marcinho.
Cabore’s cross was bundled over the line by Nagatomo to put Tokyo back in front and the Brazilian was involved again for the third, his pass being laid off by Tatsuya Suzuki for Otake to prod home from close range.
Kashima pulled one back through Yuzo Tashiro with five minutes left but Tokyo stood firm to keep its slim title hopes alive.
At Nihondaira Stadium, Gamba Osaka was brought back to earth with a bump after Wednesday’s ACL semifinal win over Urawa as Akira Nishino’s side was beaten 3-1 by Shimizu S-Pulse.
Takuma Edamura scored twice and Shinji Okazaki added a third to give Shimizu a boost ahead of next week’s Nabisco Cup final against Oita.
Elsewhere, Omiya Ardija moved out of the drop zone with a 2-1 win over JEF United Chiba in a relegation six-pointer in Saitama.
Chikara Fujimoto held his nerve to win it for Omiya with a twice-taken penalty and in the process sent Chiba back into the mire with its first defeat in eight league matches.