His difficult yokozuna debut at the Kyushu Basho now a distant memory, Harumafuji outfoxed ozeki Kisenosato on Friday to move within one win of his third championship title in four meets at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Mongolian firebrand was quick on his feet after the tachi-ai charge and dodged Kisenosato (10-3) before knocking him out of the dohyo and out of title contention to improve to 13-0.
Harumafuji, who has risen from the ashes of a horrible yokozuna debut and left his critics choking on their words, can wrap up the title with victory over Kakuryu on Saturday.
Yokozuna rival Hakuho and No. 7 maegashira Takayasu are the only two wrestlers with a mathematical chance of the taking the title as both won to move to 11-2.
Hakuho had little trouble with Kakuryu (8-5), sending the ozeki around and out with minimal fuss.
On Saturday, Hakuho faces Kisenosato while Takayasu is up against sekiwake Goeido.
Baruto failed in his bid to score the minimum 10 wins required for promotion back up to sumo’s second-highest rank.
Baruto, the 14th man to fall from ozeki to sekiwake, was attempting to become the fifth wrestler to reclaim his ozeki ranking on the rebound.
In the following bout, Goeido (7-6) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as he repeatedly repelled Aran’s (6-7) attacks and took the Russian out with a “hikkake” arm grabbing forceout technique.
Komusubi Tochiozan (7-6) weathered an early storm from Kotoshogiku (6-7) and sent the ozeki out with an under-shoulder swing down, leaving him needing back-to-back weekend wins to avoid a losing record.
Kotooshu (8-5) was the only ozeki to emerge unscathed, the Bulgarian claiming European bragging rights and sealing a winning record by throwing down Tochinoshin (8-5), who hails from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.