Eintracht Frankfurt didn't turn in their best performance in their 2-1 win against Hoffenheim. But a pair of mistakes by their opponents kept this year's surprise team in fourth place in the table.
For the first half-hour, Frankfurt and Hoffenheim basically neutralized one another. Then in minute 34, Frankfurt's Takashi Inui lobbed the Hoff's back line. Martin Lanig got a touch before defender Matthieu Delpierre inadvertently chipped keeper Tim Wiese while trying to block the shot.
Frankfurt came out lethargically in the second half, and Kevin Volland knotted things up in minute 63, tucking home a nifty cross by Andreas Beck.
But only two minutes later, Hoffenheim's weakness in dead-ball situations showed. Stefan Aigner snuck one in after a corner. Joselu inadvertently headed on, and the much criticized Wiese failed to pick off the ball in the air.
The match ended 2-1 - a result that keeps Frankfurt on course for a Champions League qualification spot. And they could be getting better. After the match Frankfurt sports director Bruno Hübner told reporters that Eintracht would be signing a striker before the end of the transfer period in January.
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim drop into the straight relegation zone.
Frankfurt’s win was all the more valuable because two of their competitors for the top spots dropped points in away matches.
In Saturday’s late match, Leverkusen were stymied by Freiburg, who lived up to their reputation as one of the toughest teams in the league to beat. So even-handed was this encounter that just before half-time the percentage of challenges won and time of possession stood at exactly fifty-fifty.
In the second half, Leverkusen’s Andre Schürrle came close on a couple of occasions, but was denied by the goalpost and Freiburg keeper Oliver Baumann. But after the match Schürrle himself admitted that a goalless draw - and a point apiece - was a fair result. Leverkusen stay in second, one point ahead of Dortmund.
In Augsburg, the hosts were the slightly better team at home against Champions League participants Schalke. The Royal Blues' 4-4-2 system with strikers Ciprian Marica and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar didn't gel in the first half, but their hosts couldn't find a way past keeper Timo Hildebrand.
And the story was the much the same in the second half. Augsburg had more shots on goal and more possession, but the result was a scoreless draw. Still that point takes Augsburg up to third-from-last, ahead of Hoffenheim.
"In the winter break everyone wrote us off," Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl told reporters. "They all made a mistake."
Gifts aplenty elsewhere
Fortuna Düsseldorf were in a generous mood in Mönchengladbach. In minute 7, defender Juanan put an ill-advised foot to a Gladbach cross, and the result was an own goal.
Six minutes later, some comical defending left striker Luuk de Jong with little choice but to find Patrick Herrmann in middle. The 22-year-old duly doubled the Foals' advantage.
In minute 50, de Jong gave one back with a handball in the area. Dani Schahin converted the penalty to give Fortuna a chance. But there were no further goals, as Gladbach ran out the 2-1 victory.
Ten beat eleven
The scoring got off to an even earlier start in Hanover, when Wolfsburg came to play. Only 3 clicks of the clock had expired when Mo Abdellaoue curled home a shot for the hosts. Simon Kjaer mistakenly stopped defending in the belief the ball was headed out of bounds.
Wolfsburg pressed and shortly after the half-hour mark, Sebastien Pocognoli got sent off deservedly for getting his studs up way too high. It was not an auspicious Bundesliga debut for the Belgian defender.
Yet Hanover still managed to duble their lead in the 38th minute. Another defensive black-out left Mame Diouf with a point-blank header. He hit the post, the ball rebounded onto his own shoulder and then into the net to put the understaffed hosts up 2-0.
Wolves coach Dieter Hecking had seen enough of Kjaer and brought on Alexander Madlung at halftime. And the lanky defender threw the visitors a lifeline with a close-range shot seconds after the restart.
Hannover must have had some serious voodoo working, though, as they somehow survived a veritable Wolfsburg onslaught for a 2-1 win that was as lucky as it was courageous.
Fürth in free fall
Last-placed Greuther Fürth put up a typically brave defensive effort at home against Mainz, but their inability to score was again their undoing.
Mainz went ahead when Adam Szalai sunk a rebound after 53 minutes. Twelve minutes later youngster Yunnus Malli made it 2-0, and Szalai rounded off the 3-0 win with six minutes left.
Szalai now has eleven goals this season - the same tally as the entire Fürth team.
"The situation is a catastrophe," Fürth defender Thomas Kleine told reporters after the match, confirming what is obvious to every who follows the Bundesliga.
On Friday, Dortmund cruised past Nuremberg 3-0. Sunday is a day of local rivalries, starting with Hamburg and Bremen in the north, followed by Stuttgart hosting Bayern to the south.