Kawasaki Frontale defeated China's Guangzhou FC 1-0 on Saturday but had to settle for second place in Asian Champions League Group I after Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim snatched the top spot in dramatic fashion.
With three teams fighting for first place, Malaysian champions JDT clinched the group's sole automatic round-of-16 berth by beating Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 when the South Koreans conceded an own goal with the last kick of the game.
Toru Oniki's Kawasaki squad started the final match day in third place and needed a win over the already-eliminated Guangzhou, along with a stalemate between JDT and Ulsan, to finish top of the group.
The J-League champions made a strong start at Johor's Tan Sri Dato' Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium when Kei Chinen collected Yu Kobayashi's through ball and scored from the middle of a crowded area in the 14th minute.
They continued to dominate the match but were otherwise frustrated by a stubborn Guangzhou side that had capitulated 8-0 in the teams' previous group-stage meeting on April 18.
In the other Group I clash at Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, both teams hit the post in injury time before Ulsan substitute Park Yong Woo put the ball into his own net in the 94th minute, sending the 2020 champions out of the tournament.
With the victory at their home stadium, JDT became the first Malaysian club to reach the ACL round of 16 since the start of the tournament.
Kawasaki must await other results to determine whether they will be among the three second-place teams joining the five East Region group winners in the round of 16.