Hamburg's weakness at home continues to haunt the northern German club. In their first match of 2014, they went down meekly at home against Schalke. A returning star put the Royal Blues on their way to victory.
Hamburg came into the match in third-to-last, a near disaster for a team that began the season with European ambitions. Schalke were seeking to go fifth with a win in their drive to return to the Champions League.
The Royal Blues got off to the far brighter start, perhaps buoyed by the return of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from long-term injury. And the Hunter displayed the efficiency Schalke have missed on occasion this season, heading home in the 34th minute.
Falling behind seemed to wake up Hamburg, and substitute Ola John, on loan from Benfica, impressed with his pace, but the hosts took the deficit into the dressing room.
Hamburg looked equally lively in the second half, but were undone in the 53rd minute. Felipe Santana hoofed the ball upfield, Hamburg keeper Jaroslav Drobny ill-advisedly decided to show off his ball-handling skills, and Jefferson Farfan slid the ball into the empty net.
Hamburg were clearly shocked, and a scant three minutes later, youngster Max Meyer caught them out on the break to put the game beyond reach. 3-0 was the final scoreline.
Schalke are now hot on the trail of a spot in the top four, while Hamburg, having lost six of their first nine home matches, must start accepting the idea that this season will be about fighting to avoid relegation.
Bremen, Braunschweig draw in the snow
With the other leading relegation candidates all winning on Saturday, the pressure was on cellar-dwellers Braunschweig to follow suit in Bremen. And on a snowy pitch in sub-zero temperatures, the visitors had the better of the first half.
Newly acquired Norwegian forward Havard Nielsen had two point-blank headers, but could only find the arms of Bremen keeper Raphael Wolf.
After the restart, Bremen upped the pressure and thought they had a goal by Eljero Elia, but he was ruled offside, perhaps wrongly. But aside from a couple of shots by Philipp Bargfrede, that was all the offense a listless Werder side could muster.
Braunschweig could muster no more, and the match ended goalless. Braunschweig remain last, while Bremen tread water in eleventh.