Nagoya Grampus edged Albirex Niigata 1-0 in the J-League first division on Saturday, moving to within two points of leaders Vissel Kobe ahead of their weekend fixture.
Playing a "home" game at Tokyo's National Stadium, Nagoya scored in the 14th minute through left wing-back Ryoya Morishita as Grampus legend and current Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic, who coached the club to their only J1 title in 2010, watched from among the crowd of 57,058.
Grampus went ahead after Ryuji Izumi made a marauding run into the box and sent a cross from the right that took a slight deflection before being steered home by Morishita.
"I was really nervous, but it was great to put it away," said Morishita, who made his Japan debut in a 6-0 win over El Salvador in June.
"Stamina is my strength, and it was really good I went into the box. Every day is fulfilling with Grampus in the title race."
Niigata left-back Daichi Tagami made a run into the box and had his shot saved in the 32nd minute. But he then stamped on the ankle of Nagoya defender Yuki Nogami, who was facing down on the floor, and was fortunate to receive only a yellow after the referee checked the pitch-side monitor.
Grampus, who lost their star Brazilian winger Mateus to Saudi Arabian side Al Taawoun this week, were happy to let Niigata have the ball while hitting on the break, and they had the chance to double the lead on the hour mark after Takuji Yonemoto was brought down inside the box.
Kasper Junker was denied by Niigata keeper Ryosuke Kojima, however, and Nagoya had to survive a late scare as Soya Fujiwara's shot from 20 meters out took a deflection and whistled past the far post.
Albirex, who were unable to make their possession count, sit 14th on 24 points. Grampus are on 42 points, one point behind second-place Yokohama F Marinos.
In the day's other game, Shonan Bellmare saw off Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 at home to move up two places from the bottom to 16th.