Lone yokozuna Terunofuji and promotion-hunting sekiwake Kotonowaka head into a gripping final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in a two-way tie for the lead after improving to 12-2 on Saturday.

Kotonowaka defeated the other overnight leader, ozeki Kirishima (11-3), while Terunofuji won by default following the injury withdrawal of ozeki Hoshoryu on Day 14 at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

If both joint leaders win their final-day bouts, they must face off in a two-man championship playoff.

Bidding for promotion to ozeki at the 15-day tournament, Kotonowaka needs one more victory to reach the unofficial benchmark of 33 wins over three consecutive meets as a komusubi or sekiwake.

Kotonowaka (L) defeats Kirishima on the 14th day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 27, 2024. (Kyodo)

One win may also be enough to clinch the 26-year-old his maiden title, depending on the outcome of Terunofuji's battle with yokozuna aspirant Kirishima.

The Mongolian ozeki will be looking for his first top-division win against Terunofuji on the 11th attempt, but that result, combined with a loss for Kotonowaka, would necessitate a three-way championship playoff.

Should Kirishima overcome the odds and secure the Emperor's Cup for the second time in a row, his promotion to yokozuna will also be guaranteed.

In the penultimate day's final bout, Kotonowaka made a pair of false starts before getting down to business. With Kirishima's hand on his throat, the sekiwake wrenched the ozeki off balance and forced him over the edge.

Terunofuji wins his bout by default on Day 14 at the New Year's Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 27, 2024. The lone yokozuna was awarded victory following the injury withdrawal of scheduled opponent ozeki Hoshoryu earlier the same day. (Kyodo)

The injury-plagued Terunofuji is set to complete his first 15-day tournament since winning his eighth Emperor's Cup last May. The Mongolian-born grand champion will make it nine if he beats Kirishima and Kotonowaka loses to No. 4 maegashira Tobizaru (7-7) on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Hoshoryu (10-4) pulled out after hurting his right knee during his Day 13 loss to Kirishima and will not return for the final day, according to stablemaster Tatsunami.

Sekiwake Daieisho (8-6) ensured his place among the three distinguished "sanyaku" ranks by sealing a winning record at the expense of No. 6 Kinbozan (6-8). The explosive pusher-thruster stayed in control as he chased the maegashira from Kazakhstan over the edge.

Former ozeki Asanoyama (9-2-3) closed in on a double-digit win total as he consigned talented young No. 1 Atamifuji to a losing record for the tournament at 6-8. No. 7 Asanoyama led the tournament before sitting out four days with an ankle injury.

Related coverage:

Sumo: Title-chasing ozeki Hoshoryu withdraws from New Year meet

Sumo: Terunofuji beats Kotonowaka, creating 3-way tie for lead

Sumo: Kotonowaka inches toward first championship with 11th win