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KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. — Kashima Antlers crushed title rivals Gamba Osaka 5-1 to take an emphatic step toward a record third consecutive championship on Saturday, but Kawasaki Frontale made sure the race will go down to the wire with a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata.

Antlers began the day knowing they could clinch the title with victory over third-place Gamba if Frontale failed to beat Albirex, and Shinzo Koroki and Takuya Nozawa put the defending champions on their way with two goals inside the space of two second-half minutes at Kashima Stadium.

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