Bayern Munich were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Werder Bremen while Hamburg slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Wolfsburg to miss the chance of going top of the Bundesliga.
Berlin were satisfied to earn three points from the match against 'Gladbach
Hamburg on Sunday, March 1, lost their top spot to Hertha Berlin who beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 and remain second, a point behind Hertha (43) and one ahead of Hoffenheim.
Martin Jol's side went behind to two first-half goals from Brazilian striker Grafite while Edin Dzeko notched a third to lift Wolfsburg to fourth, four points behind Hertha. Bayern drop a place to fifth, level on 39 points with Wolfsburg.
Hamburg couldn't find the ball against Wolfsburg
Grafite converted his first goal from the spot in the 12th minute after Dennis Aogo pulled at Dzeko. He then finished off a swift counter-attack down the left in the 25th for his 14th goal of the season.
Though he missed the last three games because of a knee injury, Grafite has now found the back of the net nine goals in his last six league games.
Paulo Guerrero gave the home side hope with a goal in the 73rd but Dzeko chalked up his 11th of the season two minutes later to inflict a first home defeat of the season for Hamburg.
Bayern can't capitalize
Visiting Bayern were unable to take advantage of the dismissal of Bremen central defender Naldo in the 15th minute, leaving Juergen Klinsmann's side with just one win in five league games since the winter break.
Klinsmann, right, had hoped to see something better against Bremen
"We wanted the win to get nearer the leaders, but it is not a bad result and we can live with it," Klinsmann said.
Naldo was shown a red card after blocking Bastian Schweinsteiger just outside the area in what was deemed a professional foul.
Bayern created a series of chances, but a lack of precision and Christian Vander in goal in place of injured first-choice Tim Wiese thwarted Hamit Altintop, Schweinsteiger drove narrowly over the bar and Tim Borowski went close and saw another effort saved by the keeper.
The best opportunity went to Bremen's Claudio Pizarro who screwed a shot wide of an open goal with 18 minutes remaining.
The result leaves Bremen 11th and without a win in five games, but the point will be seen as another morale-booster by Thomas Schaaf's side after coming from two goals down at AC Milan on Thursday to eliminate the Italians from the UEFA Cup.
"We deserved the point after playing for over 70 minutes with 10 men. I don't think you could expect any more than that today," Schaaf said.
Hertha's close call
Hertha had a hard time beating the Bundealiga's worst team
In the day's other game, seventh-placed VfB Stuttgart earned a 2-0 win at second-to-bottom Karlsruhe thanks to a goal five minutes after the break from Brazilian Elson and an 88th-minute strike from Sami Khedira.
Earlier in Saturday's Bundesliga action, Hertha Berlin beat last-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 and benefited from Hoffenheim's goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund.
Goals by Andrey Voronin and Pal Dardai gave Berlin a comfortable half-time lead, but after Arne Friedrich brought down Marko Marin in the area and Michael Bradley scored from the spot in the 69th minute, Hertha had a tough task on their hands to hold on to their lead.
Moenchengladbach threw caution to the win in the final minutes and would have deserved at least a share of the spoils as Berlin showed none of the form that had taken them to the top of the standings.
"It looked as if we simply forgot to play soccer in the second half," Voronin said. "We did not deserve to win like that, but we got the three points."
Room to move in Dortmund
Klopp was disappointed by the the referees
In Dortmund, Hoffenheim and the home side both ended the game with 10 men after referee Herbert Fandel sent off Tobias Weis and Sebastian Kehl in the second half.
Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said there were many refereeing decisions during the game he could not understand.
"Kehl's second booking was ridiculous and Weis should also not have been sent off," he said.
Hoffenheim's Andreas Beck said that the side was trying to win matches, but was just not having any luck.
"Maybe we need to win a game with a bad 1-0 and then we can get back to our winning ways."
Bayer Leverkusen failed to close the gap on the leaders going down 1-0 at struggling Hanover 96, with the only goal of the game being scored by Arnold Bruggink.
Struggling Schalke 04 managed a somewhat lucky 2-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt that sees them go to 34 points and keeps them challenging for an UEFA Cup place.
At the wrong end of the table, VfL Bochum twice came from behind to beat Energie Cottbus 3-2 to move to 14th in the table, while the visitors move down into the relegation zone in 16th.