A second-half goal by Yohei Toyoda kept Sagan Tosu up among the title contenders with a win at Cerezo Osaka.
The two sides opened the Sunday encounter with attacking intent, the home side bolstered by the return to the starting line-up of Diego Forlan for the first time in three matches.
The Uruguayan's forays into the final third were rebuffed by the stout defence of Sagan, who responded with counterattacks centred on Hiroki Mizumoto and Kim Min-Woo's combinations.
After a scoreless first half, Forlan and Takumi Minamino repeatedly drew closer to the Sagan goal, but Cerezo grew careless in possession as Sagan began to seize the initiative.
The hosts paid the price in the 68th minute, when Kim's clever pass to the right of the goal found the eager Toyoda waiting.
The Japan international's ninth goal of the season quickly followed, forcing Cerezo head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli to introduce Kenyu Sugimoto, Jumpei Kusukami and Aria Jasuru Hasegawa in a futile attempt to salvage a draw.
The result sent Cerezo, who are winless since May 3, to 15th place in the J-League table with goal difference alone separating them from the relegation places. Sagan's three points took them to within two of leaders Urawa Reds, who drew 1-1 with Kashima Antlers.