It wasn't pretty, but in the end Hertha Berlin got the job done 1-0 against Sandhausen. The win means that the club from the capital will be returning to the top flight next season.
Over 50,000 fans turned out to Berlin's Olympic Stadium to enjoy the fine spring weather and witness what was regarded as a formality. Playing at home to Sandhausen, the worst away side in the second division, league leaders Hertha were heavy favorites to secure their sixth promotion to the first division.
But things didn't exactly go according to plan. Chances were few and far between, as Sandhausen kept ten men in their own half. It took 85 minutes for Berlin's massive advantage in possession to pay off. Substitute striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga bundled the ball over the line to the delight of the sun-baked fans.
The result gave Hertha a 14 point lead over third-placed Kaiserslautern with four rounds left to play, meaning that whatever happens, Berlin will return to the first division for the 2013-14 season.
Berlin were relegated in May 2012 when the team lost the end-of-season playoff against Fortuna Düsseldorf in a tie that was marred by pyrotechnics, a pitch invasion and a dressing room brawl. But new coach Jos Luhukay formed a team that slowly but surely came to dominate the second division.
"The team got a really difficult job done," Luhukay said after getting the obligatory shower of beer. "Taking Hertha back to the top flight was the toughest task I've ever faced. We had to remake the team, but it paid off."
This latest promotion completes a five-season Hertha Berlin rollercoaster involving European qualification, then Bundesliga relegation, then promotion, relegation again and now a return to the top flight.
Second-placed Eintracht Braunschweig drew 1-1 with Aue. They are likely to be promoted next round.
Freiburg fall again to Stuttgart
In the first division, Freiburg travelled to Stuttgart trying to overtake Schalke in fourth place in the table and exact revenge on their hosts for a 2-1 defeat in the German Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
But at times the match looked like a repeat of that game, with Stuttgart the more composed and efficient side. And just after the half hour mark, the hosts hit pay dirt.
Martin Harnik lobbed in a lovely pass for an unmarked Christian Gentner to put away. Freiburg’s defense made a dilettantish impression. Shortly before the break, Vedad Ibisevic danced through the middle and nutmegged Oliver Baumann to double Stuttgart’s lead.
"We played well and were a worthy opponent, but again it was Stuttgart scoring the goals," Freiburg coach Christian Streich said after the match.
In the second half, Stuttgart were content to defend, and Freiburg seemed to have no clue about how to manufacture a lifeline. Then two minutes from time, a quickly taken free kick found Ivan Santini, who scored his first-ever goal for Freiburg.
It was too little too late, however, to turn the tide. The 2-1 win for Stuttgart means their relegation worries are buried. Freiburg stay fifth – one point behind Schalke.
In Sunday’s late match, last-placed Greuther Fürth pulled off a 1-0 away upset of their local rivals Nuremberg. Nineteen-year-old Johannes Geis scored the lone goal of the match from 26 meters out – it was his first ever goal in the Bundesliga.
It was only the third win of the season for Fürth, who remain in last place. Nuremberg finish round 30 twelfth in the table.