Perennial bridesmaid Kisenosato dug himself out of a hole to keep his one-win advantage, while Kakuryu became the second yokozuna to withdraw from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday, the 11th day of the 15-day basho.

Ozeki Kisenosato (10-1) stayed on course for an elusive first title, but only after very nearly coming a cropper in the day's penultimate bout against fourth-ranked maegashira Endo (5-6).

Endo got a right-handed grip on Kisenosato's belt but could not hold on and the ozeki turned the tables to floor him with a kotenage armlock throw.

Kisenosato, who despite repeatedly being a candidate for promotion to yokozuna has yet to win a grand sumo tournament, stayed one clear of Mongolian grand champion Hakuho and rank-and-filers Ichinojo, Sokokurai and Takanoiwa.

Hakuho rounded off the day's action by taking advantage of a lapse in concentration from compatriot Terunofuji (4-7) and forcing the ozeki out for the win.

The 31-year-old Kakuryu, who won the Kyushu title in November, has struggled at this tournament and lost his fifth bout on Tuesday.

Kakuryu's (5-6) exit comes after countryman and fellow grand champion Harumafuji withdrew from the 15-day meet with a hamstring injury on Saturday. Kakuryu forfeited Wedneday's scheduled bout against ozeki Kotoshogiku (4-7).

Kakuryu's stablemaster Izutsu said the yokozuna had hurt his left elbow in his second-day match against Shohozan and also complained of foot and neck issues.

"His condition is weak both in mind and body," said Izutsu. "After watching him wrestle on the 10th day (on Tuesday) I knew it would be impossible for him to carry on at this tournament."

Back on the raised ring, giant Mongolian No. 13 maegashira Ichinojo stayed within striking distance of the lead after marching out Egyptian No. 16 Osunaarashi in the day's opening bout in the top makuuchi division.

Osunaarashi looks set for an immediate return to the second-tier juryo division after being saddled with a majority of losses.

Chinese-born No. 10 maegashira Sokokurai also kept himself in the thick of the title race with a hard-fought yorikiri win over 12th-ranked Takakeisho (4-7), before Takanoiwa dodged a bullet to shove out sixth-ranked Chiyoshoma (5-6).

Ozeki Goeido (8-3) secured a winning record after squeaking out a victory with an overarm throw against third-ranked maegashira Ikioi (7-4).