It's grim up north for Japan leaders Kawasaki
J-League leaders Kawasaki Frontale were lucky to escape with a point at lowly Albirex Niigata on Saturday as the obdurate northern Japanese held the visitors to a goalless draw.
Frontale, who lead the first division by a point from Kashima Antlers after 13 first-stage matches, could have left with egg on their faces had Albirex substitutes Hiroshi Ibusuki and Yuta Ito been more accurate in the closing minutes.
Kawasaki survived, however, and improved to 28 points while seven-time Japanese champions Kashima closed the gap after a late goal from Brazilian striker Caio gave them a 3-2 away win over Nagoya Grampus.
Niigata, expected to be involved in a dogfight at the end of the season, are marooned just above the relegation zone on 11 points.
Urawa Reds, Japan's best-supported side, are third on 26 points but with two games in hand on the leaders.
Crosstown rivals Omiya Ardija continue to punch above their weight, Ataru Esaka's second-half strike helping the 'Squirrels' nibble away at the Urawa's points advantage and close to within two points.
Gamba Osaka, domestic treble winners in 2014, upset champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a 3-1 away win while Manchester City-affiliated Yokohama F-Marinos won 1-0 at Vissel Kobe.