Ozeki Kirishima put one hand on his second Emperor's Cup by beating rank-and-file underdog Atamifuji in a battle between the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament's two remaining contenders on Saturday.
The Mongolian grappler and the No. 8 maegashira from Shizuoka Prefecture started the penultimate day at Fukuoka Kokusai Center tied for the lead at 11-2, with no other wrestler having won more than nine bouts.
In the first-ever meeting between the pair, Atamifuji made a false start before they finally got down to business with a solid opening clash.
As both looked for a belt hold, it was Kirishima (12-2) who secured a strong inside grip and used it to force out the 21-year-old Atamifuji (11-3).
The 27-year-old Kirishima, who won his first top-division title in Osaka in March, will face fellow ozeki Takakeisho in the final scheduled bout of the 15-day tournament on Sunday. Should he lose and Atamifuji defeat sekiwake Kotonowaka on the final day, the front-runners will meet again in a tie-breaking championship playoff to determine the tournament winner.
Fighting as a lowly No. 15 in September in Tokyo, Atamifuji caused a sensation by tying for the best record at 11-4 before losing the championship playoff to ozeki Takakeisho.
In other Day 14 action, ozeki Hoshoryu (9-5) demonstrated outstanding technique as he dispatched No. 5 Midorifuji (9-5) with an overarm throw.
Sekiwake Daieisho, Kotonowaka and Wakamotoharu were all victorious. Daieisho (9-5) racked up an impressive win against Takakeisho (9-5), taking him over the straw bales with a frontal thrust out.
Kotonowaka, who fell out of title contention on Friday, improved to 10-4 by thrusting down No. 6 Shonannoumi (7-7), while Wakamotoharu (5-9) broke a four-bout losing streak by forcing out No. 4 Nishikigi (6-8).