Round 17 was one for the favorites to forget, as both Leverkusen and Dortmund stumbled. Leverkusen looked lethargic versus Bremen, while injuries undid Dortmund against short-handed Hertha.
Dortmund came into the match with what is by now, thanks to injuries, their customary makeshift back four. This time it included youngsters Marian Sarr and Erik Durm. Hertha Berlin began with 18-year-old Marius Gersbeck - nominally their fourth-string keeper - between the sticks.
And in minute eight, Dortmund made the Bundesliga debutant pay for his inexperience. Gersbeck came too far off his line, and Marco Reus angled in a shot from the edge of the box.
But Gersbeck and Hertha battled back and gained stability. A quarter of an hour later, things were level. Sami Allagui intercepted a pass in midfield and crossed in for Adrian Ramos to place a precise header. Things got even worse for the hosts just before halftime. Sarr gifted the ball away in front of his own goal, and Allagui danced around keeper Roman Weidenfeller to give underdogs Hertha the lead.
Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp responded by bringing on ex-Hertha player Lukasz Piszczek for Sarr, even though the Pole is normally a right back, not a central defender. He wasn't able to punish his former club. Instead, it was Gersbeck making up for his early blunder by parrying a Jonas Hofmann shot that proved to be Dortmund's best second-half chance.
Hertha held on for the 2-1 win despite seven minutes of extra time, handing Dortmund their third straight home loss. Berlin end 2013 with 28 points, putting them well in the hunt for the Europa League.
"We need to get our old mentality back, and I think we will," a clearly irritated Klopp told reporters. "If we do that, then we can turn our crap end to 2013 intoa great start for 2014."
Dortmund stay third, but could drop to fourth, pending the result of Sunday's match between Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg. The only consolation for Klopp and his troops was that they weren't the only favorites to be upset in round 17.
Bremen beat Leverkusen
Second-placed Leverkusen must have been confident on their trip to Bremen since Werder came into the round with the league's worst defense. The team on the Weser River had shipped no fewer than 14 goals in their previous three matches.
But the return of Sebastian Prödl from injury stiffened the hosts' resistance. A tired-looking Leverkusen failed to generate many chances, and a quarter of an hour from time, Santiago Garcia bundled home the lone goal of the match after a penalty-area scramble.
"I've only been here six months, but they feel like six years," embattled Bremen coach Robin Dutt told reporters. "Merry Christmas."
The 1-0 win eases pressure on Dutt and leaves Bremen in eleventh. Leverkusen stay in second place, but trail Bayern by seven points, with the leaders having a game in hand.
Hoffenheim may also have underestimated their opponents on their trip to last-placed Braunschweig. The hosts outfought their foes from the get-go, and took a deserved lead on the half-hour mark after a Torsten Oehrl penalty.
And although the Lions went down a man late in the second half, they held on for the 1-0 win, their third victory of the season. They remain in last place but have a bit of hope going into the winter break.
Wins for Freiburg and Mainz
Freiburg were seeking their first home win of the year, while opponents Hanover were looking for their first away points in seventeen rounds.
Something had to give, and that something was Hanover. In minute 25 Admir Mehmedi staked the hosts to a lead against the run of play, and they never looked back. Ten minutes later, Mehmedi notched a brace, and although Hanover got a late lifeline, it wasn't enough to stave off another defeat away from home.
The 2-1 loss could spell the end for Hanover coach Mirko Slomka. Freiburg boss Christian Streich, on the other hand, heads into the break knowing his team has clawed its way up to third-from-last.
Mainz got a rare away win despite falling behind in the first half in Hamburg on a goal by rising young star Hakan Calhanoglu. The visitors turned the match around just after the break on strikes by Shinji Okazaki and Nicolai Müller. Hamburg equalized on a scrappy goal by Raphael van der Vaart, but Tomas Rincon got sent off with a second yellow card ten minutes from time, and Okazaki sealed a derseved 3-2 win for Mainz.
In Saturday's late match, Nuremberg played to scoreless draw against Schalke. That makes the Club the first Bundesliga team ever to fail to win any of their first 17 matches. Nuremberg are second-to-last ahead of Braunschweig on goal difference. Schalke finish 2013 in seventh.
On Friday, Frankfurt drew 1-1 at home with Augsburg, leaving the Eagles fifteenth in the table, just above the relegation zone, and without a home win thus far this season. Overachieving Augsburg spend the winter in the top half of the table.
The remaining match in round 17, Stuttgart versus Bayern, is scheduled for January 29, 2014 to accommodate the Bavarians competing in the final of the Club World Cup.