FC Tokyo edged Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 in the first leg of the Nabisco Cup semifinals on Wednesday evening thanks to a late Lucas penalty.
S-Pulse drew first blood midway through the first half before Tokyo equalized through Yohei Kajiyama ahead of the intermission. The second leg is on Oct. 13.
In the other semifinal first leg, holders Kashima Antlers beat Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 at home where Yuya Osako scored a second-half winner.
Shimizu moved in front of an even first half at Ajinomoto Stadium in the 23rd minute from a lethal free kick by Lee Ki Je that went off Tokyo defender Yuhei Tokunaga into the net.
The hosts evened the score after 35 minutes when Naohiro Ishikawa sprang loose on the break before cutting back to Kajiyama, who trailed late into the box.
Kajiyama pounced on the ball with authority, hitting the underside of the bar for his first strike of the competition.
Kajiyama had an excellent opportunity to give Tokyo the lead just before the hour, but was kept out from close range by Shimizu goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto.
The former Japan backup was called into action again minutes later, saving from Ariajasuru Hasegawa with cat-like reflexes to keep the game at 1-1.
With a quarter of an hour left to play, Shimizu had a chance to move clear on the counterattack but Genki Omae blasted a free shot over the bar, a miss the pint-sized striker himself could not believe.
Tokyo went up with 10 minutes left to play after Yosuke Kawai tripped Yuichi Maruyama in the area, referee Toshimitsu Yoshida pointing to the spot.
Lucas casually converted the winner, wrong-footing Yamamoto as the Brazilian hit the back of the net.