In the derby debut for both coaches, Dortmund's Thomas Tuchel prevailed 3-2 over Schalke's André Breitenreiter. Tuchel's men dominated but the final scoreline was much closer than it had to be.
For Dortmund, the Ruhr Valley derby was a chance to underscore their status as Germany's second-best team as well as an always welcome opportunity to put the hurt on their hated local rivals. Schalke were looking to break a five-game winless stretch in all competitions that had seen the Royal Blues' fine season start grind to a halt.
Forced to sit out the festivities were Dortmund's Marco Reus with a typical Reusian short-term injury, as well as suspended Schalke midfielder Johannes Geis and teammate Benny Höwedes, who had fallen ill.
Breitenreiter had Schalke set up to protect their make-shift back four, and in the opening phase of the match the Royal Blues succeeded in holding the hosts at bay. Dortmund had 65 percent possession, but the first 20 minutes came and went without a single shot on either goal.
As the match wore on, Dortmund gradually found the chinks in Schalke's armor. On the half hour, Matthias Ginter snuck away from Max Meyer and crossed the ball in from the end line. An unmarked Shinji Kagawa - hardly a giant of a man - headed Dortmund in front.
Mats Hummels gave back that advantage only three minutes later. The Dortmund defender's errant pass sent Schalke off to the races, and Leroy Sané smartly squared the ball for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to end his five match scoring drought. It was the Dutchman's second goal of the season.
Dortmund kept pressing, with Ilkay Gündogan and Ginter coming close as the half wound down. And Ginter refused to be denied two minutes before the break, getting his head to a well-placed Henrikh Mkhitaryan corner.
A sure thing becomes a nail-biter
Schalke came out of the dressing room knowing they needed to score and led with their chin into a Dortmund counterpunch. In minute 47, Mkhitaryan seized the ball in midfield and laid it on to Gonzalo Casto, Castro found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the Gabon striker slotted it past Ralf Fährmann.
Seven minutes later, Mkhitaryan should have put the game away, but Fährmann denied him one-on-one from close range. There was little in Schalke's body language to suggest their believed in a comeback. By the hour mark, Dortmund had 11 shots on goal to the Royal Blues' three.
So everyone in the Signal Iduna Park was shocked when Huntelaar scored his second 20 minutes from time, after being left criminally unmarked on a rare Schalke counter-attack. Dortmund had made a nail-biter out of a sure thing. The Royal Blue faithful began to dream of revenge for 2008, when Dortmund had overturned a three-goal deficit to earn a 3-3 draw against their rivals.
Tuchel sent on Lars Bender to help defend Dortmund's advantage, while Breitenreiter rolled the dice on 19-year-old forward Felix Platte. But it was Gündogan who came closest to a goal in injury time, drawing another stunner of a save from Fährmann. But Dortmund's profligacy didn't come back to hurt them.
"We lost track of them and gave them too much space," Breitenreiter said after the match. "But other teams would have gotten slaughtered. We came back and had a chance. That's something positive."
Tuchel admitted that his team had played with fire.
"If everything ends well, it's entertaining," Tuchel told reporters. "We had numerous chances to make it 4-1."
Dortmund only won 3-2, but that result means that they keep pace with Bayern - five points behind the leaders at the top of the table. Schalke will enter the international break in fifth place.
Bremen hand Augsburg another loss
Last year's pleasant surprises Augsburg are rapidly becoming this season's worst underachievers. In Sunday's late match, the southern Germans went down at home 2-1 to fellow strugglers Werder Bremen, showing why they're currently mired in last place in the table.
Oldie-but-goodie Claudio Pizarro opened the scoring just before the hour mark in a listless contest. It was the 37-year-old Bremen legend's first goal for the team this season and extends his all-time record for goals scored by a foreign player in the Bundesliga.
If that weren't bad enough, Fin Bartels doubled Werder's advantage 10 minutes later. Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl reacted by sending on talismanic striker Tobias Werner, but he couldn't stem the tide of another defeat.
Bremen's Ulisses Garcia did the hosts a favor by handling the ball in the first minute of injury time. Augsburg captain Paul Verhaegh was his customary steel-nerved self from the spot, but it was much too late for the southern Germans to mount a comeback.
Bremen's 2-1 win moves them up to 14th in the table. Augsburg are rock bottom with only six points from 12 games.