Replacement fly-half Sam Davies saved Wales’ blushes at the Principality Stadium with an 80th-minute drop-goal to beat battling Japan.
Yu Tamura’s conversion of Amanaki Lotoahea’s 76th-minute try almost earned Japan an historic draw in a thrilling international in Cardiff.
Wales had led by 11 points in the second half after tries by Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton.
Wings Akihito Yamada and Kenki Fukuoka were Japan’s other try-scorers.
Leigh Halfpenny scored 15 points with the boot and Japan number eight Amanaki Mafi was named man-of-the-match after a tireless and powerful display.
But it is the 23-year-old Ospreys number 10 Davies who will dominate the headlines after keeping his cool to nail his drop-goal left-footed from 30 metres in only his second international.
It was a rare moment of clarity in a Welsh performance punctuated by errors and a lack of tactical control.
Japan, with fly-half Tamura kicking superbly and Mafi simply magnificent, were worth a draw and were visibly disappointed at the final whistle.
The unbreakable Blossoms
The visitors’ refusal to buckle in the face of superior Welsh possession was aided by Wales’ unhappy knack of offering up points after scoring themselves.
Twice in the second half Rob Howley’s team made a hash of restarts to let Japan back into the game and when Lotoahea juggled Mafi’s pass to score his team’s third try, it looked as though that would cost Wales dear.
Japan might even have won the game after robbing Wales of possession in the final minutes to break clear, but paid the price when they were turned over and the Welsh drove back downfield.
Howley will be looking for more control against South Africa next week.
An imperfect start
Wales made a shambolic start and were trailing by six points and down to 14 men inside eight minutes with Liam Williams in the sin-bin.
A period of relative calm mid-half saw the home team establish forward control and Lydiate’s first international try and Roberts’ charge from five metres appeared to have restored order.
But far from turning the screw up front, Wales played fast and loose and were punished before the interval when Yamada pounced on Gareth Anscombe’s speculative pass and raced 60 yards to score between the posts.
It was the same story after the break, with Warburton’s try after great work by Alun Wyn Jones appearing to put Wales in control.
But Japan served up the try of the match through Fukuoka and then a thrilling finish after their third score.
Happily for Wales, Davies kept his head when those around him were losing theirs.
Man of the Match
Amanaki Lelei Mafi was tireless in defence and a nuisance with the ball. What more can you ask of a number eight?
Former Wales captain Martyn Williams:
“Wales are way off it. You can’t gloss over that. It was a dire performance. Wales were so slow and pedestrian.
“It is a win but a real poor performance.”
Wales finish their autumn series with the visit of South Africa to Cardiff on 26 November and a chance to avenge their 2015 World Cup quarter-final defeat. Japan are off to France to play Fiji in Vannes.
Wales: Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert, Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams, Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, James King
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Jake Ball, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Keelan Giles
Japan: Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamada, Timothy Lafaele, Harumichi Tatekawa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Fumiaki Tanaka; Satoshi Nakatani, Shota Horie, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Kyosuke Kajikawa, Samuela Anise, Malgene Ilaua, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Amanaki Mafi
Replacements: Takeshi Hino, Koki Yamamoto, Heiichiro Ito, Uwe Helu, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Yuhimaru Mimura, Keisuke Uchida, Amanaki Lotoahea
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Touch judges: John Lacey (Ireland) Craig Maxwell-Keys (Eng)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/38003231