The Antlers led the standings two weeks ago but had only themselves to blame after suffering a second successive defeat.
Yasushi Endo put the hosts in front after just seven minutes and, although Jung Woo-Young replied for Vissel Kobe, Davi restored Kashima's advantage early in the second half.
Vissel dug deep, however, and Marquinhos grabbed his fourth goal in as many league matches before Keijiro Ogawa popped up to secure a fourth straight victory.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima had topped the table heading into the weekend, but now sit second on goal difference following a 0-0 draw at Albirex Niigata.
At the other end of the table, Tokushima Vortis' dreadful form continued.
The rock-bottom outfit were promoted from the second-tier last season but have not adapted to life in the top flight, losing their first eight matches and conceding 26 goals in the process.
Their latest game saw Shimizu S-Pulse cruise to a 4-0 win, with Slovenia striker Milivoje Novakovic scoring twice in the first half at Naruto Athletic Stadium.
Nagoya Grampus are another team in freefall, with a 2-0 loss at Ventforet Kofu representing their fourth defeat on the trot.
The 2010 J.League champions were beaten by goals from Sho Sasaki and Katsuya Ishihara.
Urawa Red Diamonds enjoyed a better result as a second-half strike from Tomoya Ugajin earned a 1-0 success against Kawasaki Frontale. Urawa have now won three games in a row.
Second-bottom Vegalta Sendai returned to losing ways, after last week's triumph over Yokohama F. Marinos in Susumu Watanabe's first game in charge, with a 3-0 home reverse against Sagan Tosu.
Gamba Osaka edged Omiya Ardija 2-1, while Tokyo toppled Cerezo Osaka 2-0 and there was a goalless draw between Kashiwa Reysol and Yokhohama.
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