A benzothiophene S-oxide catalyst, generated in situ by sulfur oxidation with H
, mediates the oxidative coupling of 2-naphthols. Key to the catalytic process is the capture and inversion of reactivity of a 2-naphthol partner, using an interrupted Pummerer reaction of an unusual benzothiophene S-oxide, followed by subsequent coupling with a second partner. The new catalytic manifold has been showcased in the synthesis of the bioactive natural products, (±)-nigerone and (±)-isonigerone. Although Pummerer reactions are used widely, their application in catalysis is rare, and our approach represents a new catalytic manifold for metal-free C−C bond formation.