Daizen Maeda scored a hat-trick as Yokohama F Marinos brushed aside Oita Trinita 5-1 on Sunday to go 11 games unbeaten, moving within six points of the J-League first-division lead.
The 23-year-old speedster, who scored for Japan against France during the Tokyo Olympics group stage, is tied for second in goals with 13. Kyogo Furuhashi leads with 15 goals but has since left Vissel Kobe for Celtic.
F Marinos also saw manager Ange Postecoglou leave for the Scottish giants in June but their fluid attacks remain a huge threat under his successor and fellow Australian Kevin Muscat, with 12 goals scored on his watch as they close in on runaway leaders Kawasaki Frontale.
"I think in the first half we were a little bit frustrated with ourselves in the way we were using the ball. In the second half, it was a very good performance, it could have been one or two more," said Muscat, who last year managed Belgian club Sint-Truiden, home to a number of Japanese players including Japan keeper Daniel Schmidt.
"The next one is the most important game so we'll focus on the next one, not the 11 behind us."
Maeda struck on the half-hour mark at rainy Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium, a crisp one-touch passing move down the right releasing Teruhito Nakagawa behind the Oita defense before Maeda tapped in his cutback.
Oita drew level through Kohei Isa's header from a corner nine minutes later, but the home side restored the lead on the stroke of halftime when Leo Ceara capitalized on an Oita defensive mix-up and scored with a looping effort over the stretched arms of onrushing Oita keeper Shun Takagi.
Maeda turned provider 10 minutes after the break when Takahiro Ogihara played him through down the left. Maeda, a former Maritimo forward passed across the goal for Leo Ceara, who struck through the legs of Takagi.
The pick of the bunch, however, was Maeda's second of the night, arriving in the 75th minute after Kota Mizunuma's long ball found the forward behind the visitor's backline on the right.
After taking the ball down with the outside of his right foot, Maeda went for a chip of his own from outside the box which just about evaded a stretched arm of Takagi and flew in just below the bar to find the back of the net.
Maeda completed his hat-trick in the 83rd minute. Substitute Elber dribbled toward the left byline before sending a short cross across the face of the goal, where Maeda easily headed home to complete the memorable outing.
Ryotaro Araki was at the double for Kashima Antlers as they beat Tokushima Vortis 3-0 at home, while Nagoya Grampus beat Shonan Bellmare 1-0 at home for their first win in seven league matches. Jordy Croux scored a last-minute winner as Avispa Fukuoka beat Cerezo Osaka 2-1 at home to end their seven-game winless run. Cerezo are without a win in 11 games.