Borussia Dortmund have hammered 10-man Mainz 4-2 to keep a firm grasp on the Bundesliga's second-place position. League-winners Bayern Munich had to work much harder for their win over last-placed Eintracht Braunschweig.
Dortmund won in dramatic fashion against visitors Mainz on Saturday, shipping four goals past Thomas Tuchel's side on the way to their fourth consecutive victory in the Bundesliga. Fresh off triumphs over Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in the league and German Cup respectively, Jürgen Klopp's men were eager to carry on their impressive run of form through the end of the season.
Dortmund jumped out to an early lead against Mainz with a goal from January signing Milos Jojic. The Serbian's sixth-minute effort from the top of the box deflected off Oliver Kirch and into the net. The shot appeared to have hit Kirch in the hand, but Mainz player and fan appeals to the referee went unheard.
Just 14 minutes later, Mainz got their revenge when Shinji Okazaki's shot from a similar angle deflected off Mats Hummels and past wrong-footed stand-in goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.
The visitors' satisfaction was short-lived, however. Four minutes later Henrikh Mkhitaryan raced down the left side of the area and crossed to Robert Lewandowski, who tapped in his 101st Dortmund goal to make it 2-1.
Eight minutes after the restart, Okazaki once more pulled a goal back for Mainz to draw level. A disastrous back pass from Nuri Sahin intended for Langerak was easily intercepted by the Japanese striker, who tapped into make it 2-2. But again, Dortmund had a rapid response as Lukasz Piszczek headed in Marco Reus' free kick to make it 3-2.
Twenty minutes later, Niko Bungert was awarded a red card for handling Lewandowski's cross in the box. Reus dispatched the penalty to make it 4-2, finishing off the match.
The victory extends Dortmund's excellent run of form, something sure to keep Klopp happy as the team looks toward the German Cup final May 17 in Berlin - BVB's only shot at securing silverware this season.
Bayern forced to work
It was a much less dramatic story for Bayern Munich as they faced off against Braunschweig at the Eintracht-Stadion.
As he's continued to do since winning the Bundesliga, coach Pep Guardiola named youngsters in the Bayern lineup and bench. This time, it was 18-year-old Dane Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg who played along Bastian Schweinsteiger in the center of midfield. Twenty-year-old goalkeeper Lukas Raeder, meanwhile, continued to fill in for the injured Manuel Neuer between the posts.
It took until the 51st minute for Bayern to register their first shot on goal, with Braunschweig goalkeeper Daniel Davari scooping up Höjbjerg's relatively straightforward but nonetheless significant effort.
As he's been able to do all season in times of despair, Guardiola called upon his side's formidable depth to change the tide of the match. In the 73rd minute, Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic replaced the "Robbery" duo of Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben. The decision paid off almost immediately.
By the 75th minute, Bayern were ahead. Götze (later shown to be offside in replays) received the ball on the left wing, and found a cutting Claudio Pizarro in the box. The veteran striker's clinical finish gave Bayern the lead all neutral observers knew had to come at some point.
Mandzukic added a second for good measure 10 minutes later, giving Bayern their first win in the league since March 25.
Freiburg slam weakened Gladbach
Freiburg were somewhat unlucky to go 1-0 down in the ninth minute when a lapse in defending allowed Patrick Herrmann to capitalize. Juan Arango's low ball into the box from the left wing should have been cleared away, but Herrmann managed to beat his man and flick a shot past Oliver Baumann to give Gladbach the lead.
Admir Mehmedi's equalizer in the 51st minute put Christian Streich's men back in the match, but again Freiburg looked to be the victims of bad luck when Gladbach were awarded a penalty not 15 minutes later. Goalkeeper Baumann was able to make the save, however, and suddenly the momentum shifted. Granit Xhaka was given a second yellow and sent off for a bad tackle in the 69th minute.
Freiburg capitalized on their man advantage almost immediately with back-to-back goals in the 71st and 72nd minutes, with Sorg's monstrous effort from 25 meters making it 2-1 likely to be a candidate for goal of the season.
Havard Nordtveit pulled one back for Gladbach just before stoppage time to make it 4-2, but the damage was already done. Freiburg picked up a crucial three points to distance themselves from the drop zone, while Gladbach's Champions League ambitions suffered another setback.
Werder Bremen secured survival in the Bundesliga with their 3-1 win over Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Kevin Volland gave the visitors the lead just three minutes into the match, but Bremen found the equalizer not long after when Philipp Bargfrede's shot deflected off Sebastian Rudy and into the net in the 18th minute.
Santiago Garcia's header off a corner gave the hosts the lead in the 78th minute, but the euphoria appeared short-lived when Hoffenheim earned a penalty eight minutes later. Sejad Salihovic was unable to convert, however, and Nils Peterson made it 3-1 moments later to finish off the match.
In-form Augsburg, meanwhile, were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Hertha Berlin. The result all but ends the capital club's hopes of securing European qualification this season.
Hamburg woes continue
The evening's late match saw stumbling Hamburg host aspiring Champions League competitors Wolfsburg. Toiling in the Bundesliga's 16th-place relegation playoff position, HSV needed every point they could get from the match. Likewise, the Wolves went into the encounter just a point off the league's final qualification spot for Europe's premier club competition.
Just three minutes in, Ivan Perisic put Wolfsburg ahead after running onto Kevin De Bruyne's excellent through ball. De Bruyne himself got onto the scoresheet minutes before halftime with an effort of his own, sending Hamburg into the locker room fearing a home defeat.
Ivica Olic made it 3-0 just after the restart, putting the match out of reach. Ivo Ilicevic got Hamburg on the score sheet minutes before the hour mark, but it was all the hosts could muster.
The 3-1 loss means Hamburg's fears of relegation, or being forced to play in a relegation playoff, are becoming increasingly realistic. It doesn't get any easier for Mirko Slomka's men as the season winds down. HSV travel to Augsburg, host Bayern and then visit Mainz for the final three matches of the campaign.
Are high-flying Dortmund the favorites in their German Cup final clash with Bayern? Can Christian Streich's Freiburg avoid relegation after their fourth-straight home victory? Will Gladbach still reach the Champions League? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.