If runaway leaders Bayern are still bothering to follow the Bundesliga, they'll like what they saw on Saturday. Dortmund failed to beat Augsburg at home, while Leverkusen went down away in Freiburg.
Second place Leverkusen rolled into Freiburg looking to keep Bayern from disappearing completely from view, and Lars Bender got them off to a good start in 2014 with a goal after only five minutes.
Admir Mehmedi leveled things for the relegation-battling hosts with a fine curled shot into the upper left corner in minute 27, but ten minutes later, Simon Rolfes restored the Pharmaceuticals' advantage, heading in a corner.
To their credit, Freiburg didn't give up, and things were all square again in minute 53, when Leverkusen forward Stefan Kiessling slightly deflected a free kick by Jonathan Schmid. Leverkusen never regained their intensity and looked as though they had settled for a draw.
But even that proved a bridge too far. In the dying minutes of the match, the hosts caught Leverkusen out on the break, and a slightly offside Schmid located youngster Felix Kraus who sealed an unlike 3-2 win for Freiburg.
"We were going for the win and got caught out on the break," Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypiä told reporters after the match.
Freiburg escape the relegation zone, while Leverkusen are ten points behind Bayern, with the Bavarians having a game in hand.
Dortmund carried a 2013 losing streak that dropped them to fourth in the table into their home match against overachieving Augsburg, and Jürgen Klopp's men were clearly out to make amends. Sven Bender, twin brother of Lars, opened the scoring also in minute five.
But not all was well in Dortmund. The hosts failed to put the match beyond reach in the first half against plucky Augsburg. And Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczkowski had to be substituted out early with a torn ACL, becoming the next victim of Dortmund's injury woes.
After the restart Bender was back at it, but at the wrong end. In minute 57, he diverted an André Hahn cross into his own net, and the game was level. Dortmund looked to have dodged a bullet when Nuri Sahin curled in a world-class free kick in minute 66.
But only six minutes later, Ji Dong-Won headed home a Hahn cross to knot things back up. The goal was even more painful for Klopp, as the South Korean striker will be joining Dortmund this summer. Dortmund were unable to muster a final charge and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
"From minute to minute, we cramped up more and more," Klopp said. "Our opponents played well, but we simply weren't light-footed."
Still the lone point does move Dortmund into third place, ahead of Mönchengladbach on goal difference.
Nuremberg notch first season win
Nuremberg's coach Gertjan Verbeek was looking pretty shabby on the touchlines, having vowed not to shave until his team earned their first season win. He can get out the razor, after the Club blitzed opponents Hoffenheim 4-0. Timothy Chandler and Josip Drmic staked Nuremberg to a first-half lead, and Daniel Ginczek and Drmic salted the victory away after the break.
"It wasn't our best match, but if you beat Hoffenheim 4-0, it's okay," said the gruff Dutchman Verbeek.
Wolfsburg spent 22 million euros to bring in Belgian forward Kevin de Bruyne this winter in a bid to crack the top four, but they stumbled at home against Hanover. Artjoms Rudnevs put the visitors ahead against the run of play in minute 28. Ivica Olic cancelled out that lead in the first half, but Leonardo Bittencourt scored Hanover's second goal after the restart.
And Bittencourt was at it again in minute 72 with a rocket past Wolves keeper Diego Benaglio. The 3-1 win earned Hanover their first away points this season. It was also a debut win for new Hanover coach Tayfun Korkut.
In Stuttgart, the hosts' Mo Abdellaoue traded first-half goals with Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki, formerly of Stuttgart. The match looked headed for a draw, but in the final minutes, Benedikt Saller found his range to nick three points for the visitors. The 2-1 win in Stuttgart was Mainz's first-ever Bundesliga victory in Stuttgart.
In Saturday's late match, Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Hertha Berlin 1-0. Alex Meier scored the lone goal in minute 36 in a game that was long on fouls and short on highlights.
On Friday, table-toppers Bayern Munich opened the second half of the season beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0 in Gladbach. It was the Foals' first home loss in this campaign while the Bavarians remained undefeated.
On Sunday, Bremen host Braunschweig and Hamburg lock horns with Schalke.