Effect of fuel injection timing relative to ignition timing on natural gas direct-injection combustion was studied by using a rapid compression machine. The ignition timing was fixed at 80 ms from the compression start. When the injection timing was relatively earlier (injection start at 60 ms), the heat release pattern showed slower burn in the initial stage and faster burn in the late stage, which is similar to that of flame propagation of a premixed gas. In contrast to this, when the injection timing was relatively later (injection start at 75 ms), the heat release rate showed faster burn in the initial stage and slower burn in the late stage, which is similar to that of diesel combustion. The shortest duration was realized at the injection end timing of 80 ms (the same timing as the ignition timing) over the wide range of equivalence ratio. The degree of charge stratification and the intensity of turbulence generated by the fuel jet is considered to cause these behaviors. Earlier injection leads to longer duration of the initial combustion, whereas the later injection does longer duration of the late combustion. Earlier injection showed relatively lower CO emission while later injection produces relatively lower NOx emission. It was suggested that earlier injection leads to lower mixture stratification combustion and later injection leads to higher mixture stratification combustion. Combustion efficiency maintained high value over the wide range of equivalence ratio.