What a vital weekend this is in the history of Omiya Ardija. Sunday sees the opening at long last of the club's refurbished stadium with a friendly against neighbours Kashiwa Reysol, but of greater significance than that milestone was the second game in the Squirrels' current quartet of key J1 fixtures - games that will without doubt decide in which division Ardija end up playing their football next year. And the prayers of coach Satoru Sakuma are being answered, in the shape of consecutive wins for the first time all season, combined with another top drawer display from midfield maestro Daigo Kobayashi.
And although Saturday's opposition was weak, the 1-0 defeat of J2-bound Yokohama FC was arguably the Squirrels' most most comfortable win of 2007. On another day Omiya could have won by three or four goals, Daigo and also Brazilian front man Denis Marques both putting in outstanding performances in truly atrocious conditions, that often led to the ball getting stuck in pools of water.
Right up until his replacement in the dying seconds by Kota Yoshihara, Denis was, for want of a better word, a menace and ghosted past the home defence time and again with consummate ease. He hit the post with a fine drive from the left-hand side of the penalty area just before Daigo opened the scoring in the 39th minute. The crucial goal came as a result of a Yusuke Murayama cross which eluded the Sky Blues' back line and was then brilliantly chipped over Takanori Sugeno by the in-form Omiya star.
Best of friends again, Daigo and fans
The home side had several long-range efforts in the game, all of which went wide and didn't trouble keeper Koji Ezumi at all. And if anything, the second half was more one-sided than the first had been, Denis Marques in particular orchestrating some positive attacking moves. He was clean through with only the keeper to beat but his excellent right foot attempt was palmed to safety by Sugeno with no-one on hand to put in what would have been a simple rebound.
Daigo should have added his second when he flashed a header past the post from Chikara Fujimoto's cross when unmarked. But despite the missed opportunities, Ardija were never put in any real difficulty by their lacklustre opposition and the result - combined with Sanfrecce Hiroshima sensationally conceding twice in injury time to throw away a 2-0 lead - means that the Mighty Squirrels climb out of the bottom three for the first time since June. There are still twelve points to pay for, but could an unlikely escape be on the cards?