Japan beat China 2-0 on Thursday to continue their resurgence in World Cup qualifying with their fourth straight win.
Yuya Osako buried a first-half penalty to put the four-time Asian champions in control in Saitama, north of Tokyo, before Junya Ito doubled their lead after the break.
The win meant Japan stayed second in Group B behind leaders Saudi Arabia, who they host at the same stadium next Tuesday.
But Australia remained one point behind Japan in the battle for the two automatic qualifying places for Qatar, after a comfortable 4-0 home win over Vietnam.
Japan took a 13th-minute lead after China defender Wang Shenchao slid in to block Junya Ito's cross but hit the ball with his arm.
Osako made no mistake from the penalty spot despite China goalkeeper Yan Junling diving the right way.
The hosts pressed home their advantage in the 61st minute when Ito rose to head home substitute Yuta Nakayama's cross.
China, who were playing their first game under new manager Li Xiaopeng, saw their slim hopes of reaching the World Cup all but ended by the defeat.
Australia, with manager Graham Arnold absent after testing positive for Covid-19, made light work of Vietnam in Melbourne.
Jamie McLaren opened the scoring in the 30th minute before Tom Rogic notched a second in first-half injury time.
Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree added two more after the break to wrap up the win for the home side.
Whipping boys Vietnam stayed bottom of the group with no points from seven games. (AFP)