The situation on October 24, 1944 at 23:30. In the South Nishimura has fallen in the fall of Surigao. Harassed by the US light forces during his advance, he finally found himself in front of the overwhelming firepower of the American battleships, three time more numerous than he was. His fleet is so good as destroyed and himself was killed. Shima was following him, a couple of miles behind, without coordinating his movements with his colleague. Catching sight of the disaster, he made a U-turn and escaped, temporarily, to anihilation.
23:30 is also the time when Kurita went throught the San Bernardino Passage. After having suffered heavy losses in the Sea of Sibuyan, he reversed course for a couple of hours, giving the impression to the US reconnaissance planes that he was returning to his base. When he changed course a second time, the way was free: Halsey's fleet, in charge of guarding the San Bernardino passage was gone.
At last, Ozawa's carriers have been located by the US and just in the nick of time, he was in a position to fulfill his mission as a decoy, luring Halsey to the North.