Dortmund hoped to cheer an early victory in the Bundesliga, but bottom-of-the-table Mönchengladbach put a spanner in the works, with a surprise 1-0 win over the league leaders.
Dortmund battled in vain at bottom-club Gladbach
The race for the Bundesliga title is still on, after league leaders Dortmund suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat by bottom-of-the-table Mönchengladbach, thwarting Dortmund's hopes of an early title win, three weeks before the end of the season.
Dortmund got off to a solid start when, 20 seconds into the match, teenage sensation Mario Götze's header narrowly missed the goal. He was unlucky again in the 10th minute when he hit the crossbar.
Mönchengladbach took the lead in the 35th minute after Dortmund defender Neven Subotic lost a chase to Cameroon international Mohamadou Idrissou.
"We did not make Gladbach run enough," Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp said after the match. "We were not calm enough in our game but we clearly improved in the second half. A draw would have been deserved," he said.
The result lifted Gladbach off the bottom spot for the first time since mid-November and cut Dortmund's lead to five points.
Cacau scored two of Stuttgart's three goals
After a bitter 5-1 defeat against Bayern Munich last weekend, second-placed Leverkusen beat Hoffenheim 2-1 on Saturday, fueling hopes of a Champions League spot.
Crucial points for Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern, Bremen
Another team battling relegation is Stuttgart, who secured a much-needed 3-0 win over Hamburg, with a brace from Cacau and another goal from Christian Gentner.
Eleventh-placed Werder Bremen also clinched points with a 3-1 win over Hamburg-based team St. Pauli.
Kaiserslautern beat Champions League semi-finalists Schalke 1-0 and moved up to 12th in the table.
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who on Wednesday told Schalke he will not renew his contract, was beaten in the 42nd minute by Lautern's Srdjan Lakic. Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick said he would choose a different side for next Tuesday's Champions League clash against Manchester United.
Bayern's hopes for the Champions League were dealt a blow on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich's hopes of playing in the Champions League next season remain doubtful, after they needed a last-minute goal to secure a 1-1 draw against Frankfurt.
On Thursday, Hanover leapfrogged Bayern with a 3-1 win at Freiburg, meaning Bayern is now fourth on the table and therefore, as things stand now, not eligible to compete in Europe's top football competition, the Champions League, next season.
On Sunday, Wolfsburg beat visitors Cologne with a decisive 4-1 win. Both teams are keenly aware that they are not out of the woods yet when it comes to relegation.
In Sunday's evening game, Mainz missed a chance to overtake Bayern with a 0-0 draw with Nuremberg. The match was a battle for a shot at the Europa League next season, with Nuremberg just one point away from snatching the last spot, held by Mainz.
Authors: Nicole Goebel, Andrew Bowen (SID, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer