BERLIN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Schalke 04 beat Werder Bremen 2-0 on Sunday to move three points clear of their chief title rivals at the top of the Bundesliga.
Danish striker Peter Lovenkrands got both goals at Werder's Weserstadion, volleying in from a Lincoln cross in the 20th minute and tucking past Andreas Reinke for the clinching second 17 minutes from time.
Victory took Mirko Slomka's side up to first with 45 points from 20 matches. Werder, who had led on goal difference going into the match, slipped to second on 42.
VfB Stuttgart maintained their hopes of joining the title race by claiming a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund in Sunday's other game.
Mario Gomez got the winner in the 60th minute as Stuttgart stayed in third place with 38 points.
Bayern Munich look out of the reckoning, 11 points off the title pace in fourth, after suffering a traumatic 3-0 defeat away to Nuremberg on Friday in Ottmar Hitzfeld's first match since being re-appointed in place of Felix Magath.
Schalke dominated Sunday's big game entirely, keeping the Werder attack quiet with unfussy ease and making the most of the few chances they created themselves.
'We've shown that we have the potential to be champions,' said Brazilian playmaker Lincoln. 'But it's still early. Every game from now on will be a final to us.'
The visitors took the lead with their first serious attack in the 20th minute.
Lincoln was able to ride a half-hearted challenge and make it past two defenders to the byline on the left.
Lovenkrands was unmarked at the far post and although the cross went behind him the Dane was able to twist in mid-air and hook a volley past Reinke.
Schalke showed little inclination to build on their lead but they hardly needed to as the Werder forwards endured a collective off-day.
Tim Borowski saw a couple of shots charged down in the area but there was little else of note in a dull game before Schalke wrapped things up, Lovenkrands taking a fine pass from Kevin Kuranyi and slipping in his shot.