Previously reported TiO2 nanowire fabrication from Ni catalysts shows a surprising amount of phosphorous (P) contamination incorporated into the seed particle. We proposed this unintentional P-doping of Ni particles aids the mechanism for nanowire growth and occurs by an alternative pathway from the Vapor–Liquid–Solid (VLS) mechanism. To confirm this new mechanism, mixed phase NiP/Ni2P (NixPy) and Ni2P nanoparticles were fabricated and the central role of phosphorous in TiO2 nanowire synthesis confirmed. This newly developed P-assisted fabrication method yielded crystalline rutile TiO2 nanowires. In this mechanism solid, quasi-spherical catalyst particles attached to the ends of nanowires and surrounded by a Ni/P liquid shell are responsible for the nanowire growth. The growing end of the nanowire appears to form a “tangent-plane” to the solid catalyst core with the liquid shell wetting and occupying the interstice between the catalyst and the nanowire. In NixPy assisted growth, nanowire diameters occurred as small as 12.3 nm, some of the thinnest yet reported TiO2 nanowires resulting from atmospheric-pressure chemical vapor deposition (APCVD) growth.