Homespun hero Kevin Grosskreutz has scored the late winner to salvage Borussia Dortmund's Champions League campaign in Marseille. Schalke qualified with comparative ease, but not without controversy, against Basel.
For the first time in Champions League history, four Bundesliga sides have qualified for the last 16. Borussia Dortmund and Schalke joined Tuesday qualifiers Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich on Wednesday, but both sides struggled over the last hurdle.
Kevin Grosskreutz finally restored Dortmund's lead at 2-1 with minutes to play in the south of France, saving the side from the prospect of Europa League football.
"It was an incredible feeling, of course, as we were facing elimination," Grosskreutz said on Sky after the game. Already a revelation as a stand-in right-back this season, the Dortmund local scored perhaps their most important goal of the season so far to guarantee last year's Champions League runners up a spot in the latter stages.
Robert Lewandowski had opened the scoring after barely three minutes of play, an impressive start after injury-plagued Dortmund again fielded a makeshift back four.
The Polish forward cleverly used his body to turn the last defender when latching onto a pass from Erik Durm, subsequently finishing past Steve Mandanda from close range.
Marseille equalized around 10 minutes later from a set piece, after Dortmund goalie Roman Weidenfeller misjudged the delivery. Saber Khalifa beat the keeper to the header, hitting the crossbar with his first effort. Souleymane Diawara followed up on the goal line to score, although replays suggested he was marginally offside at the point of the initial shot.
Understaffed Marseille, off-target Dortmund
Dimitri Payet, booked earlier in the match, was sent off before half time for a perceived dive in the Dortmund box. Replays revealed that Nuri Sahin did make slight contact with Payet, who fell theatrically to the floor in turn.
With an extra player, Dortmund's slight edge was swfitly transformed into dominance, but Jürgen Klopp's side could not restore their lead. Marco Reus hit the post after the break, Robert Lewandowski arrived too soon for a dangerous low ball across the middle and later rounded Steve Mandanda for an open look at Marseille's goal. From a tight angle, however, he sidefooted the ball to the wrong side of the post.
This profligacy suddenly became a problem with around 20 minutes left in the match. As Napoli took the lead against visitors Arsenal, in a game they would win 2-0, Dortmund found themselves in need of a winner to avoid a second group-stage elimination in three seasons.
The first false dawn was a Robert Lewandowski penalty appeal after 85 minutes, seen as an offensive foul by referee Maijo Strahonja. In a night where the German sides weren't lacking contentious calls, Dortmund felt the decision might have been different.
Two minutes later, Grosskreutz picked up on a pass from substitute Julian Schieber to score the decisive goal - ensuring a quartet of Bundesliga sides in the last 16. Schalke had already sealed their fate by then, albeit with some controversy of their own.
Home yellow, away red
Schalke coach Jens Keller, in need of a good result after last week's German Cup exit and a weekend loss to Germany's new fourth power Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga at the weekend, made no changes to his side that was felled by the Foals in Gladbach.
He was forced to sub out captain Benedikt Höwedes injured after half an hour against FC Basel, though. Höwedes hurt himself in the process of fouling Marco Streller, a foul for which he was booked.
Seconds after Adam Szalai replaced Höwedes, Basel defender Ivan Ivanovic was given a straight red card for tugging at Szalai in a manner more than a little reminiscent of Höwedes' earlier misdeed.
Schalke finally made their one-man advantage count five minutes after the break, courtesy of left-winger Julian Draxler. Unmarked at the far post for a Jefferson Farfan delivery from the right, Draxler had time to volley low into the corner with his right foot.
Offside or not offside? That is.... not really a question
Six minutes later, Basel were punished for an exquisitely executed defensive drill - effectively guaranteeing Schalke's spot in the next round.
As Jefferson Farfan set up a free-kick from wide on the right, Basel's players evidently planned their offside trap. As Farfan took the set piece, Basel's defenders flooded out of the box - replays revealed that they stranded a minimum of four Schalke attackers in offside positions.
But no flags flew and no whistles blew.
As a result, defender Joel Matip picked the ball up all alone in front of goal and almost appeared spoilt for choice; eventually electing a calm finish with his right.
"Offside or not offside? That is the question here," FC Basel wrote mid-match on their Twitter feed, channeling a little Hamlet and linking to a rather damning still photo of the action.
Despite Basel's reasons to rue an end to a campaign where they twice shocked Chelsea, it was Schalke who continued to press against their understaffed opponents. Star Basel keeper Yann Sommer deserved credit for keeping the score at 2-0, denying both Farfan and Szalai on multiple occasions in the closing 25 minutes of the match.
Schalke and Dortmund therefore join Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverksuen in the next round, with Germany, for the first time, providing four of the last 16 Champions League competitors.