Leverkusen climb to fifth
Lars Bender scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen remained in the running for a Europa League spot with a strong 2-0 victory at Cologne.
Bender scored the first goal of the game in the 16th minute and doubled his tally in the 50th minute. Leverkusen have suffered just one loss in their last six games and move to 37 points.
Cologne, who through a combination of suspension and injury were missing Miso Brecko, Slawomir Peszko, Geromel, Henrique Sereno, Kevin Pezzoni and Ammar Jemal, have lost six times in their last seven matches to remain on 24 points.
Martin Harnik scored twice as Stuttgart claimed a crucial 4-1 victory over SC Freiburg which boosted their hopes of European qualification for next season.
Harnik scored in the 12th minute and Shinji Okazaki made it 2-0 for Stuttgart after 21 minutes. Freiburg pulled a goal back through Fallou Diagne in the 27th minute but Khalid Boulahrouz gave Stuttgart a 3-1 cushion after 63 minutes and Harnik struck for a second time in the 82nd minute.
Stuttgart had won just once in their last nine Bundesliga games but improved to 29 points. Freiburg remain on 18 points after just one victory in the last 11 league matches.
Nurnberg created some much-needed space between themselves and the relegation zone with a tough 1-0 victory at Werder Bremen, which was secured by Alexander Esswein's 65th-minute goal.
The visitors have picked up two victories and a draw in their last three games for 28 points overall - eight points from the relegation zone. Werder had their five-game unbeaten run snapped to remain on 36 points in their fight for the Europa League spots.
Sven Schipplock's late goal earned Hoffenheim their first win under Markus Babbel with a 2-1 victory at Wolfsburg.
Roberto Firmino gave the visitors the lead after just two minutes only for Patrick Helmes to equalise from the spot in the 69th minute. But Schipplock struck the winner six minutes from time to earn Hoffenheim an overdue win. It was the club's first win in seven games and following back-to-back draws since Babbel took over from Holger Stanislawski.
Mainz used a strong first half hour to continue their march up the table with a comfortable 4-0 home victory over Kaiserslautern.
Mohamed Zidan opened the scoring in the second minute and Adam Szalai made it 2-0 in the 17th minute. Nicolai Muller added Mainz's third goal in the 30th minute and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was Mainz's fourth goalscorer in the 74th minute.
Mainz increased their undefeated streak to five games to improve to 27 points. Lautern continue to struggle as they have just 18 points after 13 matches without a victory.
Torsten Oehrl scored two goals in three minutes as Augsburg spoiled new Hertha Berlin coach Otto Rehhagel's return to the Bundesliga with a 3-0 win.
Oehrl netted in the 61st and 63rd minutes to put Augsburg in control and then Marcel Ndjeng added a third goal two minutes into stoppage time to complete the win.
The victory was Augsburg's first in seven games and saw them leapfrog Berlin, who have now lost six successive Bundesliga matches and are without a triumph in their last 12 contests.