Big scorelines were the order of the day in Round 21, the "top" match of which was a relegation clash between Hamburg and Braunschweig. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund easily brushed aside their opponents.
Braunschweig-Hamburg was billed as a battle for survival, with many pundits predicting that the last-placed hosts would put the hurt on their crisis-hit visitors.
The match was a typical relegation dogfight, with few clear chances for either side and a total of ten yellow cards. In minute 23, Hamburg striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga put Hamburg ahead with the unlikeliest of goals. With his back to the goal, the bullish striker headed a throw-in in a high arc over Braunschweig keeper Daniel Davari. It was Hamburg's first goal of 2014.
After the restart, Hamburg keeper René Adler handed the hosts a way back into the match when he fumbled a corner kick in minute 51. Domi Kumbela pounced to equalize. Ten minutes later, Mirko Boland slid a low free kick into the area, and Kumbela was quicker than Hamburg's central defense.
Ivo Ilicevic levelled things again with a quarter of an hour to go, instantly reacting when the hosts failed to clear the ball. But this time Braunschweig refused to be denied, and Adler was having a very, very bad day. He failed to deal with a free kick, and Kumbela completed his hat-trick from point-blank range. In injury time, Karim Bellarabi danced his way through Hamburg's lines and pulled the ball back for Jan Hochscheidt, who made it 4-2.
"Every game it's a different player who makes individual mistakes," Hamburg coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters after the match, referring to German national keeper Adler. "You can practically wait for them. There's not much I can do."
Braunschweig remain in last place but are now only one point behind Hamburg.
On Saturday evening, Hamburg announced that it was firing the 61-year-old van Marwijk, with former Hannover coach Mirko Slomka being the leading candidate to replace him, after Hamburg failed to land Felix Magath during the week.
Stuttgart continue slide
Hamburg weren't the only big club to have a disappointing round 21 to go with a disappointing season. In Hoffenheim, Stuttgart were slow off the mark in both halves. Former Stuttgart striker Sven Schipplock put the hosts ahead in minute 14, and Kevin Volland doubled Hoffenheim's advantage on the fifty-minute mark.
Schipplock completed his brace in minute 66. Antonio Rüdiger got one back for Stuttgart fifteen minutes later, but a red card for Moritz Leitner ended any vague hopes of a comeback. Roberto Firmino added insult to injury with a late penalty. The 4-1 loss means Stuttgart remain just above the relegation zone on 19 points.
Bremen on the other hand were able to celebrate a lucky home draw against Mönchengladbach. The Foals took the lead early, after playmaker Raffael intercepted and slotted home a blackout pass by Bremen defender Assani Lukimya.
Gladbach led all of the important statistical categories and had a handful of promising chances, but failed to add to their lead. And two minutes from time, Bremen midfielder Ludovic Obraniak looped in a free kick to secure something for the hosts.
"I don'r know what, but something felt different in the second half," said Bremen coach Robin Dutt. "The entire stadium pretty much yelled our equalizer into the net."
Bremen remain in thirteenth and in danger, but the lone point may prove very valuable in a relegation fight as close as the one this season.
Schalke beat Leverkusen
And speaking of close, the battle for the three Champions League spots behind Bayern Munich got closer, as Schalke ground out a win in Leverkusen.
The hosts were the more active and threatening side at the start, but nineteen-year-old midfielder Leon Goretzka took the ball off Germany national Lars Bender and coolly finished to put Schalke ahead against the run of play.
It took Leverkusen until the second half to recover from the shock. In minute 66, Schalke defender Felipe Santana – who had cleared the ball off the line one minute before – turned the ball in for an unlucky own goal. Gonzalo Casto should have put Leverkusen ahead a short time later alone in front of goal, but he hit his shot well wide.
Instead, it was Klaas-Jan Huntelaar getting his head to a Jefferson Farfan free kick to restore Schalke’s lead a quarter-of-an-hour before time. Leverkusen hit the crossbar in the dying minutes, but the Royal Blues hung on for a hard-fought 2-1 win.
That result solidifies Schalke’s hold on fourth place and leaves them only three points behind Leverkusen in second.
Four each for Bayern and Dortmund
Despite coach Pep Guardiola insisting that he wasn't taking the Bundesliga for granted, Bayern rested a number of key players at home against minnows Freiburg. The visitors meanwhile decided to have a go and were the equals of the mighty Bavarians for roughly 20 minutes.
But defender Dante broke the ice, heading in a free kick. It was the Brazilian defenders third goal in four games. After that Xherdan Shaqiri took over, scoring twice in the first half on slight deflected shots. The highlight of the second half for Bayern fans was the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger after a long injury. Veteran striker Claudio Pizarro completed the 4-0 scoreline shortly before the end.
Dortmund didn't have significantly more difficulty at home against Frankfurt, the same opponents they kicked out of the German Cup mid-week. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored two first-half goals, as Jürgen Klopp's men bossed their visitors at both ends of the pitch.
And immediately after the restart, Robert Lewandowski put the result beyond doubt when he drew a somewhat soft penalty and converted from the spot. Milos Jojic got Dortmund's fourth in minute 70, only seventeen seconds after making his Bundesliga debut.
Two of the top teams now turn their attention to the Champions League. On Tuesday Leverkusen host Paris Saint Germain, while on Wednesday, Bayern visit Arsenal.
On Friday. Mainz made home advantage pay, beating Hannover 2-0.
On Sunday, Augsburg host Nuremberg, while Hertha welcome Wolfsburg.