The Bundesliga's top two sides have both racked up crucial, albeit nervy league wins on Saturday. Dortmund won 3-1 in Wolfsburg and Bayern beat visitors Augsburg 2-1 - setting up a mouthwatering showdown on Wednesday.
A 3-1 win in Wolfsburg was enough to stretch Borussia Dortmund's unbeaten league run to 23 games on Saturday, with 18 wins and five draws for the defending champions since their 2-1 loss in Hanover on September 18 last year. The all-time Bundesliga record is 24 games unbeaten - set two years ago by Bayer Leverkusen - but Dortmund will have to beat rivals Bayern Munich on Wednesday to equal that feat.
Bayern also won 2-1 on Saturday afternoon, doing just enough as a resilient Augsburg came to town. Stuttgart and Hoffenheim both recorded wins, at the expense of Mainz and Kaiserslautern, while Freiburg drew with Nuremberg and Cologne shared the spoils with visitors Werder Bremen. Borussia Mönchengladbach broke a two-game losing streak but were unable to find the net in a home draw against relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin.
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League leaders Dortmund traveled to one of the strongest home sides in the Bundesliga, handing Wolfsburg only their fourth home defeat of the season so far. Robert Lewandowski finished an Ivan Perisic cross on 22 minutes to put the guests ahead, with in-form midfielder Ilkay Gündogan doubling the lead in style early in the second period.
Mario Mandzukic's seventh headed goal of the season - converting an Ashkan Dejagah delivery from the right - gave coach Felix Magath's side hope in the latter stages. But Dortmund's top scorer Lewandowski was on hand to put the game beyond doubt with an impudent scooped shot in stoppage time, meaning Dortmund will go into Wednesday's showdown with a three point advantage over Bayern.
Labored, but effective
Like Dortmund, Bayern needed a brace from their top scorer to overcome a sturdy challenge from fellow Bavarians Augsburg. Mario Gomez scored within 24 seconds and again early in the second half, sandwiching a goal from Ja-Cheol Koo that snuck through Manuel Neuer's legs midway through the first half.
Bayern's Champions League campaign has left Jupp Heynckes' side with a more congested run-in to the season, and the star-studded side appeared to be pacing itself at times - perhaps with Wednesday in mind.
Hoffenheim's 2-1 win in Kaiserslautern was a similarly uninspiring affair. The visitors were reliant on a first-half penalty, converted by Sejad Salihovic, and a second-half defensive error from Lautern to grab their goals. The visitors pulled one back late on, courtesy of a free kick from Alexander Burgera. Lautern looked better than usual going forward, but the last-placed side in the league has slipped further from safety and looks a safe bet for relegation even with five games left to play.
Stuttgart on song
Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia had perhaps most cause for celebration on Saturday afternoon, as his side dispatched Mainz 4-1 on home turf. Mainz took an almost immediate lead from the penalty spot, but Tamas Hajnal equalized early and Vedad Ibisevic put Stuttgart ahead just after half-time.
Zdravko Kuzmanovic later converted an extremely dubious penalty, won after Martin Harnik appeared to trip over an already-stricken Mainz defender, and then Ibisevic added another to put the result beyond doubt with five minutes to play. Stuttgart move up to fifth in the league with that win, though Hanover could overtake the Swabians with a win against Schalke on Sunday.
Under-fire Cologne racked up a big point against Werder Bremen in front of a sellout home crowd, drawing 1-1. After Markus Rosenberg put Bremen ahead and Cologne's Ammar Jemal headed home an equalizer from a corner in the first half, Cologne went on to dominate the second period, albeit without managing to secure a win. Coach Stale Solbakken is not yet out of the woods, though - his side still sits 16th in the league, currently flirting with a relegation playoff at the end of the season.
Fans in Freiburg were treated to a couple of superb strikes as their side recovered to draw 2-2 with Nuremberg. German under-21 international Daniel Didavi opened the scoring with the instep of his left foot after just eight minutes, curling the ball tantalizingly into the top corner. Czech Tomas Peckhart doubled Nuremberg's advantage on the stroke of half time.
Two of Freiburg's top performers in recent weeks, Daniel Caligiuri and Cedric Makiadi, were on hand to undo the damage in the second half. Caligiuri won and converted a penalty kick, before Makiadi pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area and volleyed it emphatically into the top corner with a little over ten minutes remaining. Freiburg and Nuremberg hold their positions in middle of the table as a result, occupying 13th and 12th places respectively.
The evening fixture pitted trouble at the top against trouble at the bottom - and it scarcely delivered fireworks. Stuttering fourth-placed side Borussia Mönchengladbach played out a goalless draw with second-to-last Hertha Berlin. There were chances, albeit not very many, at both ends as these two somewhat impotent offensive outfits split the points.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Ben Knight