Yuichi Sugita and Kei Nishikori helped Japan to a commanding 2-0 lead against India in the Davis Cup World Group Play-Off tie in Tokyo on Friday.
Sugita upset the Indian No.1, Somdev Devvarman 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the opening singles before Nishikori, Japan's top singles player, expectedly got the better of Rohan Bopanna 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
The hosts now need to win just one of the three remaining matches to book their berth in the elite World Group for the first time since 1985.
Sugita, the Japanese No.2, thrashed Somdev to draw first blood for Japan. Somdev, India's top singles player at No. 64, was expected to steamroll over the 174th-ranked Japanese.
However, the opposite happened with Somdev, who won back-to-back gold medals at the Commonwealth Games (New Delhi) and Asian Games (Guangzhou) last year, failed to get into any rhythm against the unheralded Sugita.
While Somdev's tame surrender came in as a surprise for the visitors, Bopanna's loss was a predictable one.
The doubles specialist seemed clueless against Nishikori and caved in just 98 minutes.
Veteran Mahesh Bhupathi and his young partner Vishnu Vardhan will have to win their doubles clash against Nishikori and Go Soeda on Saturday to keep the Indian challenge alive.
With Leander Paes missing the tie with an injury, the untested pair has its task cut out.
India lost 1-4 to defending champion Serbia in the first round this March while Japan won 4-1 over Uzbekistan to set up the play-off at the Ariake Colosseum, the venue that hosts the ATP Japan Open next month.