Of the 100 reasons why victory in the Northern Derby was crucial for both Werder Bremen and Hamburg, survival topped the list. Bremen's 1-0 win had their fans smiling, while Bayern Munich showed Schalke their might.
Zlatko Junuzovic's 19th-minute goal ensured Bremen moved to 12th on the Bundesliga table. Six points away in 16th - and still in the relegation zone - lie Hamburg.
At the other end of the table, Borussia Dortmund leaped above Bayer Leverkusen and into second after their 3-0 win over Nuremberg. Leverkusen slipped to third after a defeat to Mainz, while there were 1-1 draws as Eintracht Braunschweig hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hannover visited Augsburg. In the later game, Bayern Munich handed Schalke their second thumping in four days.
But it was the Northern Derby, celebrating its 100th occasion, which proved perhaps the most compelling. Hamburg, whose plight has already seen them chew through to their third coach this season, had shocked Borussia Dortmund last Saturday to snap a run of losses that stood at eight. Despite a fresh outlook since the arrival of new coach Mirko Slomka, their return to winning ways was to last just 90 minutes.
It was not a game laden with any particular quality, but it nonetheless did not lack in effort. Bremen's fans did their part with an impressive choreography before the opening whistle, and their side rewarded them by going ahead on 19 minutes.
That goal came from the boot of Zlatko Junuzovic. His tidy touch from Aaron Hunt's ball took him away from Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler, allowing the Austrian to convert with his left foot.
Hamburg were millimeters from an equalizer shortly before half-time through Hakan Calhanoglou. The talented midfielder had scored a miraculous free-kick in his side's shock win over Dortmund, but this time his shot - a curling effort from outside the area - could not find the net. Instead, the tips of Raphael Wolf's fingers sent the shot crashing against the crossbar.
Bremen dug in despite Hamburg's best efforts to claim something from the game, with Rafael van der Vaart, who started the game among the substitutes, one of several Hamburg players to threaten Wolf's goal. The threat to Hamburg's Bundesliga status remains terrifyingly real, and they will hope Stuttgart fail to get a result at Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday to widen the gap to safety.
Dortmund, Bayern fire
In Dortmund, masterclass performances from Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan helped the home team cruise to a 3-0 win over Nuremberg. Returning defender Mats Hummels got the scoring underway in the 51st minute from a corner, before goals to attacking duo Lewandowski and Mkhitaryan sewed up the result by the 83rd minute.
Dortmund now appear favorite to play bridesmaids to runaway leaders Bayern Munich, who smashed Schalke 5-1. Having conceding six goals in the first leg of their Champions League clash with Real Madrid on Wednesday, Schalke then found themselves down 4-0 after just 28 minutes. The scoring dried up somewhat after that, but the result showed the gaping gulf in quality between both clubs.
Goals to David Alaba, Mario Mandzukic and a double to Arjen Robben in the first-half flurry did the damage for Schalke and head coach Jens Keller, with Robben completing his hat trick from the penalty spot on 77 minutes. Schalke got a consolation own-goal from former Royal Blue Rafinha in the second half, but it could have been worse if not for the heroics of goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann. Never far away from pressure, Keller could find the spotlight swinging back on him after a poor week.
Leverkusen on slippery slope
Leverkusen, meanwhile, continued their struggles at home. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting's deft backheeled goal in the first half consigned Leverkusen to their fifth game in all competitions without victory. Head coach Sami Hyypia had shuffled his hand pre-game, surprisingly leaving leading goalscorer Stefan Kiessling on the bench. He was on by the 60th minute as the hosts pushed for an equalizer, but the result remained the same for a Leverkusen outfit in some kind of free fall.
Like Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach have Champions League ambitions. Also like Leverkusen, Gladbach returned from the winter break in shoddy shape. That looked to have changed when they took the lead against bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig after goalkeeper Daniel Davari somehow let a corner in at his near post.
But his blushes were nothing compared to Gladbach counterpart Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who scored an even more embarrassing own-goal on 52 minutes when he failed to control a back pass and then watched the ball trickle over the line.
Gladbach pushed hard for a winner, with Max Kruse hitting the upright late on, but were left to continue their search for a first league win since December 7.
Augsburg and Hannover drew 1-1 after Mame Biram Diouf's first-half opener for the latter was cancelled out by Ragnar Klavan's headed goal on 55 minutes.