Yuhi Sekiguchi held off a late charge from Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly to claim his second Super Formula win of the season at Sugo.
Polesitter Nick Cassidy nearly stalled at the start of the race, allowing fellow front-row starter Sekiguchi to breeze past and take the lead.
Gasly, Andre Lotterer and the fast-starting Kazuki Nakajima also got through, demoting the New Zealander down to fifth.
Back at the front, the gap between Sekiguchi and Gasly fluctuated between one and three seconds before the Japanese driver put the hammer down and built a 7-second buffer.
He made a fuel-only stop on lap 42 and crucially came out in front of the battling pair of Kamui Kobayashi and Felix Rosenqvist.
Gasly stayed out for another 15 laps but with only a single tyre compound at Sugo, the gap between the two drivers virtually remained the same.
When he finally stopped on lap 57, he still came out 4.5s behind with 11 laps to go.
However, in a late bid to steal the victory, he set a series of personal best times, bringing the deficit to less than a second with three laps to go.
Despite closing in right on Sekiguchi’s tail on the final lap, he couldn’t make a move and finished 0.243s adrift at the chequered flag.
Nevertheless, his third successive podium finish puts him just 0.5 points behind championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura heading into the final round - a double header - at Suzuki.
Behind the battling lead pair, Nakajima, who gained three positions off the line, took the chequered flag in third to score his first podium since his victory in the season opener.
Defending champion Yuji Kunimoto finished fourth with a late stop on lap 58, while Rosenqvist was next up in fifth after completing the race without a single pit stop.
The aforementioned Ishiura dispatched the also non-stopping Naoki Yamamoto and Kamui Kobayashi during the dying laps of the race to finish sixth and keep the points lead.
While Kobayashi managed to make it to the chequered flag in seventh, Yamamoto ran out of fuel and stopped on track on the final lap.
The 2013 champion’s retirement elevated Dandelion’s Takuya Izawa to the final points paying position.
Further down, Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough was ninth, while Lotterer completed the top 10.
The German driver incurred a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, his second consecutive non-scoring result of the season putting him 13.5 points behind championship leader with 18 up for grabs at Suzuka.
|5||Felix Rosenqvist||Team LeMans-Toyota||11.472|
|14||Takashi Kogure||B-Max-Honda||1 Lap|
|15||Kazuya Oshima||Team LeMans||1 Lap|
|16||Koudai Tsukakoshi||Real-Honda||1 Lap|
|17||Daisuke Nakajima||Nakajima-Honda||1 Lap|
|18||Naoki Yamamoto||Mugen-Honda||2 Laps|
|19||Nick Cassidy||Kondo-Toyota||3 Laps|