Dortmund and Bayern march on
Leaders Borussia Dortmund defended their three-point advantage over Bayern Munich ahead of Wednesday night's big match with the Bavarians in Westphalia thanks to an impressive 3-1 win at Wolfsburg.
Two goals from Robert Lewandowski and an Ilkay Gundogan strike were enough to keep Jurgen Klopp's men on course for a successful defence of their Bundesliga title.
Mario Mandzukic made them sweat with a goal which made it 2-1 after an hour, but the home side were unable to equalise and lost Alexander Madlung to a red card in the 84th minute before Lewandowski's second goal sealed Dortmund's win.
Bayern Munich secured a hard-fought 2-1 win in a Bavarian derby against Augsburg.
Mario Gomez scored his goals number 24 and 25 of the season to keep Bayern three points behind Dortmund.
Ja-Cheol Koo gave Augsburg hope with an equaliser before Gomez, who extended his contract with the club until 2016 in midweek, earned Bayern all three points.
Hertha Berlin earned a critical point in their fight against relegation with a 0-0 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach, who could see Schalke pull away in the race for the automatic Champions League berth.
Gladbach have collected just one win in their last seven games and moved to 52 points while Schalke play on Sunday and hold a two-point gap. Berlin have a win and draw in their last three games for 27 points.
The home side were hit with an injury concern in the opening minutes as forward Marco Reus received a knock on his right knee by Christian Lell. Reus was then replaced in the 20th minute for Igor de Camargo.
Vedad Ibisevic scored twice as Stuttgart came back from an early deficit for a comfortable 4-1 victory over Mainz to remain on course for Europe.
Andreas Ivanschitz gave Mainz the lead from the spot after three minutes, but Tamas Hajnal equalised just four minutes later.
Ibisevic scored his first in the 49th minute and Zdravko Kuzmanovic converted a penalty after 65 minutes before Ibisevic struck a second time in the 85th minute.
Stuttgart have now collected five wins and two draws in their last seven games, while Mainz have won just once in their last 13 away matches.
Kaiserslautern's hopes of avoiding relegation were dealt a major blow with a 2-1 defeat at home to Hoffenheim.
Sejad Salihovic converted a penalty for Hoffenheim in the 26th minute and Boris Vukcevic made it 2-0 after 71 minutes. Alexander Bugera pulled a goal back for Kaiserslautern in the 86th minute.
But the home side, cut adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga, could not score again. With just two goal in the last seven games, they extended their winless run to 19 games with 20 points - their fourth straight defeat - nine points from the relegation playoff spot with five matches left.
Hoffenheim can continue to dream about Europe after increasing their undefeated streak to four games for 37 points.
Cologne and Werder Bremen split the spoils 1-1 in a match that lacked top-level highlights and a result which does not really help either team.
Markus Rosenberg's goal for Bremen in the 24th minute was equalised by Ammar Jemal in the 39th minute and there were no goals in the second half.
Cologne are in the middle of a relegation fight and could have used three points. But after a turbulent week following their third straight defeat last weekend, Stale Solbakken's men will take the one point to move them to 29 in total.
Bremen are still in the fight for the European spots but just one victory in their last seven games for 41 points total does not help their cause.
Freiburg fought back from a two-goal deficit to continue their superb run of results with a 2-2 home draw against Nurnberg.
Nurnberg jumped ahead after eight minutes though Daniel Didavi and the visitors doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time through Tomas Pekhart.
Daniel Caligiuri pulled a goal back from the spot for Freiburg after 53 minutes and Cedrick Makiadi made it 2-2 in the 79th minute.
Freiburg have now collected four victories and two draws in their last six games, while Nurnberg snapped a four-game losing streak.