Ozeki Tochiazuma outmuscled Tamanoshima yesterday to stay on top of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, while yozokuna Asashoryu won a gritty victory to keep close on the leader's heels.
Tochiazuma came into the ninth day's action at Fukuoka Kokusai Center alone with an unblemished record.
Against Tamanoshima, the ozeki gave ground after the initial clash but managed to turn around the No. 2 maegashira and send him out of the ring with powerful thrusts.
Asashoryu stayed hot on Tochiazuma's trail at 8-1.
The Mongolian yokozuna was the only grand champion left in the 15-day tourney after Musashimaru announced his retirement over the weekend.
Asashoryu, who is fighting for his fifth title after winning the previous tournament in September, initially found himself retreating against a fired-up Tosanoumi (6-3). But the grand champion used the No. 2 maegashira's momentum against him, pulling him down into the dirt while stepping back.
Asashoryu's fellow countryman, No. 5 maegashira Kyokushuzan, fell back from the title chase as he slipped to 7-2 against Tochinonada.
The No. 1 maegashira (6-3) easily disposed of Kyokushuzan, coming in high off the initial charge, wrapping the Mongolian wrestler around the chest and forcing him out.
In a battle of two ozeki fighting to avoid demotion, Kaio (6-3) forced out Musoyama (5-4) after a long deadlock in which both veteran wrestlers tried to snag each other's legs.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai (7-2) sent top-ranked maegashira Kotomitsuki hurtling out of the ring with flailing attacks to the neck and chin.
No. 2 maegashira Toki dealt another blow to sekiwake Wakanosato's hopes for promotion to ozeki.
Toki (5-4) slowed Wakanosato (4-5) with a shove to the chin, then jerked his opponent down into the dust.
* Takekaze (5-4) Kotonowaka (7-2
* Wakatoba (5-4) Takanowaka (3-6)
* Yotsukasa (6-3) Tochisakae (4-5)
* Jumonji (5-4) Dejima (6-3)
* Shimotori (5-4) Otsukasa (3-6)
* Kasuganishiki (6-3) Toyozakura (4-5)
* Kotoryu (4-5) Tamakasuga (2-7)
In other major bouts, Komusubi Iwakiyama won a judgment call against sekiwake Kyokutenho. Kyokutenho was ruled to have come crashing down first as he attempted to throw Iwakiyama, leaving both wrestlers at 2-7.
Fan favorite Takamisakari brought the crowd to life with a clever win against No. 4 maegashira Miyabiyama (3-6).
The komusubi sidestepped his larger opponent after absorbing his charge to improve to 4-5.
No. 3 maegashira Aminishiki (3-6) appeared to be heading for defeat when an aggressive Asasekiryu made a desperate lunge for his leg and was hauling him down. But the No. 4 maegashira hit the dirt first and slid to 1-8.
No. 5 maegashira Takanonami improved to 3-6 when he got a firm grip on Buyuzan's belt and lifted the No. 8 maegashira out of the ring. Buyuzan fell to 2-7.
No. 12 maegashira Kotonowaka was dropped by No. 11 maegashira Takekaze, who improved to 5-4, and No. 7 maegashira Hokutoriki (7-2) was slapped down by Kinkaiyama (5-4).