Dortmund have maintained their hold on second place with a relatively easy 3-1 home win over Hanover. Meanwhile, Schalke trounced a struggling Wolfsburg side 4-1, and Bremen's misery deepened.
Dortmund got back into their most pressing Bundesliga race on Saturday: the one for second place.
With Bayern all of 17 points ahead, the second-place team now had to concentrate on keeping Leverkusen, who began the weekend just a point behind the defending champions, at bay.
And Dortmund soon stamped their authority over their hapless guests Hanover to win 3-1. The visitors left their defensive brains at home as they allowed the prolific Pole Robert Lewandowski to get two goals in the opening 21 minutes - one the result of a great cutback from Kevin Grosskreutz, the other a follow-up after a low shot was saved by the keeper.
But despite the strong start, and their dominance throughout the half, Dortmund's persistent frailties showed through, and they allowed Hanover a way back into the game on the 40th minute through Mohammed Abdellaoue, who was quickest to follow up a free-kick that Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller could only tip onto the bar.
The second half proved much less eventful, with the home side content to keep the huffing-and-puffing Hanover team at arm's length to protect the lead. The champions then coolly caught the visitors on the break in the 72nd minute, when Julian Schieber followed up a run from Jakub Blaszczykowski to sweep home his first Bundesliga goal for Dortmund.
Leverkusen turn the game
In Saturday's evening game, Leverkusen beat Stuttgart 2-1 to keep in touch with Dortmund, though they were forced to chase the game for over an hour after an unlucky penalty call in the 12th minute. Defender Philipp Wollscheid brought down Vedad Ibisevic just as the Bosnian stormed into the box.
Though the first contact was outside the area, the foul swept across the line and Ibisevic fell well inside. Either decision would have been justifiable, but referee Wolfgang Stark opted to give the visitors the penalty, which Ibisevic dispatched with assurance.
The halftime statistics said that Leverkusen enjoyed fully three-quarters of possession, and the team delivered at least three great chances to their star striker, Stefan Kiessling. But he was unable to capitalize, despite heading inches over at one point. A similar pattern was repeated in the second half: Leverkusen pressed and pressed, asking all the right questions, but failing to complete the job, with Stuttgart looking increasingly dangerous on the break.
Leverkusen finally got the break they deserved in the 80th minute, through a much less contentious penalty - Cristian Molinaro stopped a Jens Hegeler screamer with both hands. Kiessling converted the spot-kick, and just four minutes later, was in the thick of a penalty-area melee that led to the winner from Lars Bender, who picked his spot cleverly. It was stunning end to an exciting game.
Bremen beaten by Augsburg
Werder Bremen, meanwhile, showed symptoms of the psychological damage inflicted by Bayern Munich last week, losing 1-0 to lowly Augsburg. The visitors took advantage of that 6-1 mauling inflicted by Bayern and Tobias Werner put them in the lead in the 29th minute following a move down the right initiated by Dong-Won Ji.
Bremen toiled throughout the rest of the game and could do little to make an impression on Augsburg, who defended their slim lead resolutely. Bremen have now lost three games in a row and are languishing miserably in 13th place.
Schalke, on the other hand, seem to have regained some of the confidence they showed in the first half of the season, and halted their slide down the table by trouncing a struggling Wolfsburg team 4-1. In the 33rd minute, Jefferson Farfan and Marco Höger forced a way through down the right, and found Julian Draxler, who had far too much time to pick which corner to slam the ball into.
The home side reasserted themselves early in the second half through Ivica Olic, who was in the right place to sweep home a headed effort that goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand had only just scrambled away. That hard-fought parity only lasted 13 minutes though, as the brilliant Draxler popped up again to score a low shot from outside the area.
The visitors sealed the deal with two goals in the final 12 minutes - the first from a textbook counterattack that left Farfan with just the goalkeeper to beat from close range, and the second from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar after a similar sweeping move up the field.
Nuremberg get lucky
Nuremberg were always going to struggle against high-flying Freiburg, some nine places above them, but they were given a helping hand in the first half of the 1-1 draw by referee Felix Zwayer. The Berliner awarded the home side a distinctly generous penalty after Jan Rosenthal nodded the ball onto Cedric Makiadi's arm from extremely close range. Timmy Simons did the business from the ensuing penalty.
The far superior Freiburg side worked their way back into the game in the second half, and finally got the equalizer in the 83rd minute through Jonathan Schmid. After a long ball set Julian Schuster free to try a shot, and Schmid was there to slot home the rebound from a tight angle.
Fürth try everything
With Hoffenheim playing Bayern Munich on Sunday, Bavarian minnows Greuther Fürth had a chance to lift themselves off the bottom of league away in Hamburg. Though they took the lead in the 14th minute through Nikola Djurdjic with their first attack of the game, Hamburg equalized just seven minutes later through Max Beister, who spun sweetly in the penalty area to slam the ball into the top-left corner with real venom.
Fürth then tried everything in their meager powers to force a winner in the second half, only to be foiled by excellent Hamburg defending.