Bayern may have sprinted away from the pack in the race for the Bundesliga title, but a gutsy Wolfsburg made them stumble - for an hour at least. Then Munich showed just how deep their bench is.
Wolfsburg, who were without defensive midfield general Luiz Gustavo, fielded an ambitiously attacking line-up against the defending champs, who are rewriting the record books for the second year in a row.
The Wolves were rewarded for their daring, as Kevin de Bruyne found Naldo in the 17th minute, and the Brazilian defender put the underdog hosts ahead.
Bayern were fortunate that Xherdan Shaqiri bundled the ball home ten minutes later.
Both teams took a 1-1 draw into the dressing rooms – an acceptable result from Wolfsburg's perspective.
Wolfsburg had the better of the first fifteen minutes after the restart. Then substitute Thiago sent Thomas Müller through with a marvelous no-look pass. Bayern were ahead and ready to administer a true hiding to the plucky hosts.
Substitute striker Mario Mandzukic scored two goals, leaving Franck Ribery and Müller to complete the 6-1 thrashing. It was almost as if Munich were punishing Wolfsburg for having the temerity to compete.
"We weren't as dominant as in the previous matches," Bayern coach Pep Guardiola told reporters. "But in the end we scored the goals."
It's not often that 6-1 winners are described as non-dominant, but that's how good Munich are this season. They now face Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, while the Wolves, like so many teams before them, are left to lick the wounds left from a brutal Bayern beating.
Schalke hold serve
At home against Hoffenheim, fourth-placed Schalke had the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their nearest competitors for the Champions League. And they got off to a perfect start as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Hoffenheim had plenty of possession, but lacked the Hunter's deadly efficiency. The Dutchman finished off a counter-attack on the half-hour mark to double Schalke's lead. And he should have completed his hat-trick two minutes later from the penalty spot, but his effort was Mesut Özil-esque.
That turned out not to matter, as Chinedu Obasi made it 3-0 for the Royal Blues in the 57th minute. And ten minutes from time, Huntelaar did complete his hat-trick and the 4-0 scoreline.
That result drew the Royal Blues level on points with third-placed Leverkusen, who drew 1-1 in Hanover. Leverkusen's keeper Bernd Leno, who is making a bid for the German national team, turned aside a penalty (his fifth of the season!) early on. That gave them momentum, and Gonzalo Castro put them ahead with a deflected shot on the half-hour mark.
But five minutes later, Artjoms Rudnevs blasted in a screamer from twenty meters. Leverkusen seemed content to end their three-game league losing streak, and second place - now occupied by Dortmund – is rapidly slipping from their grasp. Jürgen Klopp's men travel to Freiburg in Sunday's early match.
Draws galore at the bottom
In one of three relegation dogfights, Stuttgart split the points at home with last-placed Braunschweig, despite coming from behind to take the lead. The visitors grabbed an early advantage thanks to Jan Hochscheidt, who exploited a badly cleared ball. Alexandru Maxim and Martin Harnik turned the game on its head in the first half, but Stuttgart's inability to run out wins cost them.
Christian Gentner blew a penalty that could have killed off the match in minute 52. And ten minutes from the end defender Ermin Bicakcic made it 2-2.
"With the penalty, we had the chance to decide the match," said Stuttgart coach Thomas Schneider. "It's symptomatic of the phase we're in right now."
Braunschweig stay dead last, while Stuttgart are hovering just above the drop zone, thanks to a one-goal margin in goal difference ahead of Hamburg. The result is likely to spell the end for the embattled Schneider.
Hamburg salvage point
For their part, third-from-last Hamburg booked a 1-1 home draw against Frankfurt. The visitors took an unlikely lead just before the half-hour mark with a surprisingly artistic goal by hulking central defender Alexander Madlung. Twenty minutes from time, Hamburg equalized with a penalty. 20-year-old Hakan Calhanoglu showed great poise from the spot.
One point is too little for struggling Hamburg at this point, but given their long injury list they'll be happy to have achieved something in a round, in which nothing much went their way.
Mönchengladbach would have been happy to settle for a point in their midfield clash at home against Augsburg. The Foals quickly went ahead on a fifth-minute goal by Raffael, but were once again unable to follow through. Halil Altintop knotted things in the 35th minute with a sumptuous bicycle kick, and ten minutes from time Tobias Werner converted a beautiful cross by rising star André Hahn to give Augsburg a 2-1 victory.
Gladbach are winless in their last nine, and their bid for international competition – to say nothing of the Champions League – has well and truly stalled. Meanwhile minnows Augsburg have – at least temporarily – cracked the top six.
In Saturday’s late match, Werder Bremen only generated two clear scoring opportunities against Nuremberg, but they made both of them count. Franco di Santo and Philipp Bargfrede were the goalscorers. Arguably , the high point of the match came a quarter of an hour from time, when the visitors were awarded a penalty, but in a commendable gesture of fairness, Bremen striker Aaron Hunt told the referee there had been no contact.
Bremen move up to eleventh, while Nuremberg tread water in fourteenth. In Sunday’s late match, Mainz host Hertha Berlin with a spot in the top six at stake.