Nuremberg grabbed an unlikely 2-1 home victory over Mainz on Sunday thanks to a brace from Swedish defender Per Nilsson and a missed penalty by the visitors. Meanwhile Hannover were held 0-0 at home by Stuttgart.
Nuremberg's 2-1 win over Mainz on Sunday put them into the top half of the table and all but guaranteed top-flight football next season.
That was despite the fact that the visitors had more to play for, with a real prospect of Europa League football still up for grabs. Moreover, Freiburg's away win over Hamburg on Saturday, and their subsequent boost to the coveted fifth spot, gave Mainz extra incentive to show their mettle - a win would have seen them leapfrog their rivals.
That showed at first as, despite a tight opening, Mainz applied most of the pressure. A potential breakthrough came in the 27th minute, when Nicolai Müller was suddenly through with a run at the goalkeeper, only to be unceremoniously shoved over from behind after rounding the keeper. But the Hungarian striker Adam Szalai hit the subsequent spot-kick wide of the left-hand post.
At the other end, Nuremberg's best first-half chance came in the 41st minute, after a quick break following a Mainz corner. Though Alexander Esswein received the ball at the edge of the area, he opted to pass out wide to Hiroshi Kiyotake, who promptly miscued and his shot trickled harmlessly wide.
Mainz paid for the inability to capitalize on their superiority in the 54th minute, when Nuremberg defender Per Nilsson got on the end of a lovely long free-kick from Kiyotake, glancing the ball into the far corner.
The goal brought the game to life, and Mainz deserved credit for renewing their efforts, and were rewarded just six minutes later. Müller leapt onto a long ball and deftly chipped the onrushing keeper Raphael Schäfer, putting Mainz back on level terms.
That in turn brought a reaction from the home side, who took advantage of more set-piece frailty from Mainz. Nilsson got his second of the game in the 69th minute, when his defending partner Hanno Balitsch extended Kiyotake's corner. Nilsson slid in at the far post to poke home.
That was enough to seal an unlikely victory for the home side, who moved up to ninth.
Disappointing Hannover held by Stuttgart
Sunday's late game ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw between Hannover and Stuttgart, with the home side Hannover looking particularly poor. The game got off to a lively start, as Hannover looked to capitalize on Mainz's slip and reignite their chances of European football next season against a Stuttgart side in poor form.
Hannover have one of the strongest home records of the Bundesliga's mid-table sides, and would have expected success as they hosted the southern Germans. But while Hannover's set-pieces provided a consistent threat, Stuttgart had two early efforts from Shinji Okazaki blocked, and their confidence built throughout the match.
Stuttgart also unlocked Hannover's poor offside trap at least twice in the first half, and it was the away side who took the initiative in the second half.
Okazaki should have opened the scoring in the 52nd minute after a brilliant through-ball from Ibrahima Traoré set him free. Later Stuttgart's star striker Vedad Ibisevic should have done better when a cross dropped over the Hannover defenders and he chose to try and control the ball on his chest rather than head in from close range.
Hannover's threats were limited to long-range efforts and set-pieces, with Didier Ya Konan looking the most dangerous. In the end, the dull draw lifted Hannover to ninth place, and left Stuttgart in 13th, well clear of relegation. But any European action for them can only come by way of the cup competition.