Bavaria-based rivals Bayern Munich and Nuremberg began Sunday at either ends of the Bundesliga table. Most would have predicted Bayern's win over Frankfurt, but Nuremberg's victory at Hertha Berlin was more unlikely.
It was a comfortable stroll for league leaders Bayern against Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena, despite the visiting side putting in a valiant effort. Better teams than Frankfurt have and will struggle against the title favorites this season, however, and it was goals from a raft of stars that ensured Bayern's 5-0 triumph.
The situation facing Nuremberg for their trip to Berlin was far less cut and dried, but 'Der Club' overcame a frantic final few minutes against Hertha to win 3-1. They leapt out of the Bundesliga relegation zone as a result, continuing their recovery after a dire first half of the season.
Nuremberg had to have a penalty and a red card overturned late in the match before making the three points safe, having fallen behind early. But Markus Feulner's equalizer and a double from Josip Drmic extended Nuremberg's unbeaten run to five matches and finally saw them climb free of the drop zone.
It was Hertha's fans who started the day better than the traveling support, however, having to wait just over three minutes to celebrate. Ronny's near-post corner required a good header from Adrian Ramos to even hit the target, but the leaping Colombian international went even better by perfectly angling his downward effort just inside Nuremberg shot-stopper Raphael Schäfer's right-hand post. He could have had a double as part of a gale-force start by the hosts that could have blown the visitors away.
But having weathered Berlin's February storm, Nuremberg pulled level 15 minutes after the opener. It came through a mistake from Johannes van den Bergh, who made a hash of clearing Hiroshi Kiyotake's cross. His scuffed effort fell at the feet of Feulner, who finished neatly past Thomas Kraft in Hertha's goal.
The game suffered in quality as the second half began in edgy fashion. But it remained lively, at least, and by the 67th minute, Nuremberg had their lead. Drmic forged the scoring chance by sending Daniel Ginczek through on goal. He also finished it, converting after Ginczek's shot rebounded off the upright and into his path.
Red, penalty overturned
The game descended into confusion in the final moments, when Schäfer's lunged clearance fell to the feet of Ronny. With the Nuremberg goalkeeper well off his line, Ronny lobbed a shot towards goal that was only kept out by Ondrej Petrak's flailing hand. It seemed a clear penalty and sending off, and it was awarded that way until the intervention of the linesman. The replays showed he was right - Ramos had drifted offside and was adjudged to have hindered Schäfer's retreat back to the goalmouth when Ronny shot.
A final-minute penalty at the other end - converted by Drmic after Marcel N'Djeng brought down Ginczek - was yet another reminder at how fickle the football gods can be.
A final-minute penalty converted Drmic after Marcel N'Djeng brought down Ginczek was yet another reminder at how fickle the football gods can be. But Nuremberg and coach Gert Verbeek cared little when their second-straight win was confirmed moments later.
Bayern blitz hapless Frankfurt
In Munich, Bayern started in the dominant way most expected. The hosts got their first goal through attacker Mario Götze, who hit a lovely volley from striker Mario Mandzukic's cushioned header past Kevin Trapp in Frankfurt's goal in the 12th minute.
With winger Franck Ribery rampant and absent of even a fleck of rust upon his return from injury, Bayern set about pinning Frankfurt deep in their own half. Götze went close again after 22 minutes, with Trapp to thank for keeping the scoreline at 1-0 after a superb point-blank save.
A deflected Tranquillo Barnetta cross that required a splendid Manuel Neuer tip-over was as close as it got for Frankfurt, and Bayern were further ahead minutes before the break when Ribery swept home after Mandzukic's blocked header fell into his path.
Substitute Arjen Robben scored one and supplied the corner for a Dante header, while Mandzukic got the fifth goal as a fitting reward for a fine display. Frankfurt's day got worse when Trapp, who fought valiantly in the face of wave after wave of Bayern attacks, needed to be substituted in the 77th minute after injuring his knee.