No. 8 maegashira Onosho took the sole lead 12 days into the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday after joint leader ozeki Takakeisho lost for the second straight day.
The trademark drive from Takakeisho (9-3) put Kiribayama (8-4) under pressure but the komusubi's left-handed swipe knocked the ozeki off balance before a beltless arm throw settled the matter at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The result left Onosho (10-2) in the driver's seat after he worked his way around Tamawashi (8-4) in his earlier bout. Onosho's opening charge left Tamawashi on the back foot before the veteran No. 2 came up with fierce thrusts of his own to find his way back to the middle of the raised ring.
But the fired-up Onosho stood his ground and launched another foray to emphatically push out Tamawashi and secure the vital win.
Onosho will face Takakeisho in Friday's final bout.
No. 13 Kotoshoho (9-3) stayed in the title race after recovering from a tame start against No. 5 Nishikigi (7-5), beating him with a right-handed beltless arm throw at the edge.
Sekiwake Hoshoryu (7-5), who missed his bout Tuesday with a left ankle sprain, fought tenaciously but was ultimately forced out by No. 5 Ryuden (7-5).
Sekiwake Wakatakakage (6-6) swiftly grabbed belt holds with both hands en route to forcing out komusubi Kotonowaka (5-7).
Shodai (6-6), who cannot reach the 10 wins needed to return to ozeki, had another solid outing as the sekiwake kept No. 4 Nishikifuji (3-9) at bay in a force-out win.
Meisei (4-8) fell to a losing record when No. 4 Sadanoumi pulled the komusubi down while teetering on the straw bales on one foot.
Diminutive No. 3 Midorifuji (6-6) displayed good agility as he reacted well to push out komusubi Wakamotoharu (6-6).