Frankfurt and Hoffenheim have shared the points in a feisty encounter marked by several tough fouls and clashes on pitch. Both the surprise high-flyers therefore hold station, meaning Dortmund could leapfrog them.
Frankfurt 0-0 Hoffenheim
(Timothy Chandler sent off 83')
There was too much to lose and too little to gain for both the Bundesliga's surprise packages in Frankfurt on Friday. Both teams brought more than the requisite portion of aggression and commitment to the game, but neither really displayed an ability to break down the opposing back three.
Frankfurt therefore remain unbeaten at home this season under Croatian coach Niko Kovac, rewarded this week for the strong start to the season with a brand new contract.
Julian Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim, meanwhile, are yet to lose in the Bundesliga after 14 matches. Only league leaders RB Leipzig can claim the same.
The two sides remain fourth and fifth in the table thanks to the draw, although Borussia Dortmund could capitalize and leapfrog both with a win in Cologne on Saturday.
Ref Dingert thrust into limelight
In hindsight, referee Christian Dingert might remember the ninth minute of the match as the moment he started to lose a grip on two highly motivated opponents. Frankfurt forward Marco Fabian tried to slide-tackle Oliver Baumann in the Hoffenheim goal and mistimed it. Dingert kept his cards sheathed, to Baumann's evident disgust.
The first half continued to get more and more rowdy, Mascarell made some tough challenges for the Eagles before becoming victim of one himself from Sandro Wagner. Next, it was Wagner taking an elbow in the face from former Hoffenheim defender David Abraham. Dingert continued to give players stern reprimands, without ever reaching into his shirt pocket.
It was the 52nd minute when he finally reached for a yellow - giving it to the very same Marco Fabian who perhaps should have received the first booking before the 10 minute mark. Then, the cards came thick and fast - but they did nothing to take the bite out of what had become a pretty furious game, fueled by a vocal home crowd that had noticed all the rough play.
Both sides clocked up four second-half bookings each, while Timothy Chandler received a yellow in the 73rd minute and then a straight red card in the 83rd-minute for his role in a bout of pushing and shoving involving most of the players on the pitch. Just like Dingert's assistant, who was watching the scene, replays showed how Chandler had tried to grab Sandro Wagner by the neck as the pair of them squared off.
Indicative of two teams punching above their weight
Perhaps this fierce fight and somewhat scrappy game was just what should have been expected from arguably the two Bundesliga teams punching most clearly above their weight. Both are well drilled, organized and dangerous going forward, but put them up against opposition with similar strengths and also on good form, and both can lack that touch of class necessary to make the difference in the final third. Even though hosts Frankfurt had more of the ball and chances in the second half in particular, neither side really took charge of the encounter, and that meant that neither could really concentrate on hitting their opponents on the break.
Compounding this was the bad-tempered nature of the game itself. More than a few promising attacks were necessarily interrupted by the referee's whistle. And given the ferocity of some of the tackles, a few attackers might well have thought better of trying to dribble past the last man to carve out an opportunity.
Chance-magnet Alex Meier forced the best save of the night out of Hoffenheim's Oliver Baumann in the first half, and the Frankfurt captain probably should have hit the target late in the game when a loose ball fell to him on his weaker left peg in the box after a corner. As it stood, though, both sides take a point - and probably the odd cut and bruise - away from this shock top-of-the-table matchup.
You can scroll through our minute-by-minute coverage of the slug-fest in Frankfurt in the window below.