Molecular biomarkers that predict disease progression might promote drug development and therapeutic strategies in aggressive cancers, such as gastric cancer (GC). High-throughput mRNA sequencing (RNA-seq) revealed that collagen type X alpha 1 (COL10A1) is a disease progression-associated gene. Analysis of 103 GC patients showed that high COL10A1 mRNA expression was associated with GC metastasis and reduced survival. We analyzed the COL10A1 promoter using the UCSC genome website and JASPAR database, and we found potential SOX9 binding site. Here, we demonstrated that SOX9 and COL10A1 were both up-regulated in GC. We observed a positive correlation between the expression patterns of SOX9 and COL10A1 in GC cells and tissues. The results of electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay and promoter reporter indicated that SOX9 could directly bind to the COL10A1 gene promoter and activate its transcription. Biological function experiments showed that COL10A1 regulated the migration and invasion of GC cells. Knockdown COL10A1 inhibited lung and abdominal cavity metastasis in a nude mouse model. Moreover, transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) treatment up-regulated the phosphorylation of Smad2 and increased SOX9 and COL10A1 expression. COL10A1 was confirmed to be a potential inducer of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). SOX9 was essential for COL10A1-mediated EMT, and cell migration, invasion and metastasis. Co-expression of SOX9 and COL10A1 was associated with tumor progression and was strongly predictive of overall survival in GC patients. In summary, this study elucidated the mechanistic link between COL10A1 and the TGF-β1-SOX9 axis. These findings indicated that COL10A1 might play a crucial role in GC progression and serve as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target in GC patients.