Baku, May 20, AZERTAC
The battle between Azerbaijan and Turkey to top the overall medal table at the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games looks set to go down to the wire with just a handful of golds separating the two nations heading into the final weekend.
Azerbaijan enjoyed greater success than their rivals on Friday to go top of the pile for the first time in several days, although nothing is settled just yet with plenty of action to come over the last three days in Baku.
Meanwhile, Iran boosted their hopes of finishing third in the medal table as they picked up golds in four different sports.
Having pulled to within a single gold medal of leaders Turkey with victory in the women's volleyball tournament late on Thursday, Azerbaijan forged ahead as they continued their domination of the wrestling events at the Heydar Aliyev Arena.
Mahir Amiraslanov (57kg) and Nurmagomed Gadzhiyev (97kg) both bagged gold in their respective freestyle events as the hosts increased their wrestling medal tally to 11 - including six golds - over the first three days of competition.
Elena Chebanu then clinched yet another track and field gold for Azerbaijan as she clocked 24.69secs to win the women's 200m T12 disability final.
Olga Bykovskaia also swept to gold for the host nation in the diving, as she claimed a commanding victory in the women's 10m platform final.
That moved Azerbaijan into the overall lead with a total of 63 gold medals, while Turkey slipped to second place on 61 after securing just a solitary title in table tennis.
Reigning European champion Melek Hu brushed aside home hope Ning Zhing 4-0 to win the women's singles title at the Sarhadchi Arena.
Friday's table tennis action was a family affair for Iran, as Noshan Alamian beat younger brother Nima 4-3 in a thrilling men's singles final to secure their country's 20th gold medal of the Solidarity Games.
It was a solid day all round for Iran as they also picked up golds in the wrestling, diving and athletics.
2016 Asian champion Meisam Nasiri prevented Azerbaijan from making it a hat-trick of golds in the freestyle wrestling as he outfoxed Magomed Muslimov to triumph in the 65kg category.
In the diving, Mojtaba Valipour made it two golds in as many days after he and teammate Shahnam Nazarpour overhauled Indonesian pair Tri Priambodo and Aldiansyah Rafi to be crowned men's synchronised 3m springboard champions.
Valipour had already snatched gold from under Rafi's nose in Thursday's individual 3m springboard final.
Over at the Baku Olympic Stadium, meanwhile, Iran sprinted to gold in the men's 4x100m disability relay (T11/T12/T13) after Azerbaijan wrecked their chances with a botched handover.
The Iranian quartet of Arash Khosravi, Amir Khosravani, Vahid Alinajimi and Hossein Saeidi won in 45.24secs ahead of Turkey in the three-team final, while bronze was not awarded after the Azeris failed to finish.
Those successes gave Iran a cushion of six golds over fourth-placed Uzbekistan in the battle to finish third behind Azerbaijan and Turkey in the medal table.
Bahrain also enjoyed a stunning day as they dominated the athletics with three more gold medals.
Salwa Eid Naser got the Gulf state off to a great start as she beat teammate and pre-race favourite Oluwakemi Adekoya to the women's 400m title in 51.33secs.
The gold dust then spilled onto the 4x100m relays as Bahrain's sprinters surged to victory in the men's and women's finals.
It was a day of firsts at the Olympic Stadium as Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique both claimed their first-ever Solidarity Games golds.
Jessica Da Silva Inchude secured Guinea-Bissau's maiden title with a winning throw of 50.23m in the women's discus.
Creve Armando Machava then broke Mozambique's duck by holding off Senegal's Amadou Ndiaye to win the men's 400m hurdles in 50.73secs.
Finally, middle-distance star Rababe Arafi grabbed Morocco's sixth gold in athletics as she successfully defended her title in the women's 1500m.
AZERTAG.AZ :Azerbaijan and Turkey neck-and-neck as Iran tighten grip on third