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Kaio absorbed a crushing blow by Wakanosato in the penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, but quickly got hold of the sekiwake's belt and threw his opponent down to remain in the sole lead at 12-2. Wakanosato dropped to 10-4.
Kaio can wrap up the title with a win over Asashoryu on the final day. The only other wrestler with a chance is Tochinonada, who defeated Kotomitsuki to improve to 11-3.
No. 3 maegashira Tochinonada made sure the title chase will go down to the final day when he deployed a clinical arm throw at the edge of the ring to send Kotomitsuki sprawling to the dirt surface. Komusubi Kotomitsuki was handed his seventh loss.
Tochinonada needs to defeat Kotonowaka on the final day and hope for Asashoryu to defeat Kaio to force a playoff.
Kaio's victory Saturday also ensured grand champion Asashoryu won't win his fifth straight title. Mongolian Asashoryu was shoved out by Chiyotaikai in the final bout to drop to an unimpressive 9-5. Ozeki Chiyotaikai improved to 7-7.
Mongolian Hakuho, a No. 3 maegashira, posted an impressive win over Kokkai to pull to within one victory of a winning record.
After being shoved back after the faceoff, the 19-year-old Hakuho turned the tables on Georgian-born Kokkai and shoved out the top maegashira to improve to 7-7.
Kokkai dropped to 6-8 and will finish the 15-day tournament with a losing record.
Earlier, Mongolian Kyokushuzan fell out of the running after being shoved out by No. 6 maegashira Kakizoe, who improved to 9-5.
Kyokushuzan, a No. 10 maegashira, led for much of the tournament's first week but dropped to 10-4 after Saturday's loss.
No. 15 maegashira Roho also dropped to 10-4 when he got off to a slow start at the faceoff and was bulldozed out by No. 7 Takekaze, who improved to 8-6.
Dejima continued to impress and picked up his 10th win against four losses when he came bursting out of the faceoff and drove Kotonowaka over the straw ridge in a matter of seconds. Kotonowaka, a ninth-ranked maegashira, dropped to 9-5.