Kawasaki Frontale took a significant step towards their first-ever AFC Champions League semifinal appearance on Wednesday evening as Toru Oniki's side handed Urawa Red Diamonds a 3-1 defeat in the first leg of their quarterfinal meeting at Todoroki Stadium.
Yu Kobayashi scored twice, either side of a close range volley from Elsinho, while Urawa will cling to the hope provided by Yuki Muto's away goal ahead of the second leg on Sep. 13 at Saitama Stadium.
The winners of the tie will face either Shanghai SIPG or Guangzhou Evergrande in the last four, with SIPG winning the first leg of the all-Chinese Super League meeting on Tuesday evening 4-0 to put one foot in the semifinals.
Urawa, looking to claim the continental crown for the first time since their sole success in the competition in 2007, were hit just before kick off when an injury to Yosuke Kashiwagi meant the playmaker was ruled out. Takuya Aoki was drafted in as a late replacement.
Frontale had the better of the tense opening exchanges, with Kobayashi seeing his attempt from outside the area following Kengo Nakamura's through ball deflected wide for a corner.
At the other end, Aoki had time and space on the edge of the penalty area to do better than find Jung Sung-Ryong's arms with his limp effort.
With 12 minutes remaining in the half, Kawasaki -- who have yet to lose in this year's competition -- took the lead when a stroke of fortune played in their favour.
Nakamura's attempt to find Akihiro Ienaga in the penalty area went awry. But, as the Urawa defence hesitated, the playmaker latched on to his own through pass before cutting the ball back for Kobayashi to slam his shot home.
Three minutes after the restart, Nakamura's creativity opened up the Urawa defence once again. His cleverly taken free kick allowed Hiroyuki Abe to turn and shoot, only for Shusaku Nishikawa to push the ball to safety.
Frontale did not have long to wait to double their advantage, however.
The home side claimed possession on the halfway line and Eduardo Neto slid his pass into the path of Kobayashi. While his initial shot was saved, Elsinho volleyed the rebound into the unguarded net.
Urawa introduced Brazilian forward Rafael Silva soon after the second goal and, belatedly, the visitors started to threaten.
By the 76th minute, Urawa had halved the deficit and claimed a vital away goal with Muto latching onto Aoki's ball over the top of the Frontale defence before controlling on his chest and slotting his shot under Jung.
The goal gave Urawa hope of restoring parity, but that was extinguished with five minutes remaining.
Ienaga's dart towards the bye-line ended with the former Gamba Osaka man clipping the ball towards the far post and Kobayashi heading in his second.
It gives Frontale a two-goal cushion and the upper hand ahead of the return meeting in three weeks' time.