Satoru Yamagishi hauled JEF United Chiba out of the relegation zone after his first-half strike earned a vital 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Yokohama FC on Saturday.

Yamagishi eased the pressure on manager Amar Osim when he buried Takashi Rakuyama’s pass in the 10th minute at Nissan Stadium to give Chiba its third win in four matches.

“We always knew this was going to be a very difficult game but we were able to get an early goal and that gave us a bit of breathing space. After that we were able to see out the game,” said Yamagishi.

“However we are still at the wrong end of the table and we have to keep working really hard in practice and try and keep picking up three points,” added the Japan international.

After a fairly even first half, Chiba took control and Yokohama goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno produced a contender for save of the season when he pushed a ferocious drive from Yuto Sato onto the woodwork on 53 minutes.

Japan striker Seiichiro Maki saw a header fall just wide of Sugeno’s left-hand post as Chiba pressed for a second goal, but Osim’s men breathed a collective sigh of relief when a volley from Yokohama midfielder Chong Yong De crashed off the cross bar midway through the second half.

Chiba, 14th in the 18-team division, improved to 19 points after condemning bottom club Yokohama to its fifth defeat in a row.

At the top of the table, Gamba Osaka overpowered Omiya Ardija 3-0 at Komaba Stadium and head into the league break with five-point cushion over Urawa Reds, who beat 10-man Jubilo Iwata 2-0 thanks to a pair of classy finishes from Shinji Ono in his 100th J. League appearance.

Akihiro Ienaga put Gamba on the way with the opener after 64 minutes before further goals from Takahiro Futagawa and Magno Alves made the points safe.

Marcio Richardes scored twice to lift Albirex Niigata into third after a 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima but Kashima Antlers saw their nine-match unbeaten run come to an end with a 2-1 defeat at home to FC Tokyo.

A last-minute winner from Juninho saw Kawasaki Frontale beat 10-man Vissel Kobe 2-1 to go fifth while local rival Yokohama F. Marinos enjoyed a 3-0 over Oita Trinita at Kyushu Oil Dome.

In the day’s opening game, former Japan midfielder Toshiya Fujita became the first player to reach 400 J. League appearances in Nagoya Grampus Eight were unable s 1-1 tie at Ventforet Kofu.

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