BERLIN, April 15 (Reuters) - Kevin Kuranyi hit four goals to help Schalke 04 end a traumatic seven-day spell with a 5-0 rout of Energie Cottbus in the Bundesliga on Tuesday.
Schalke, who sacked coach Mirko Slomka on Sunday after losing 5-1 to Werder Bremen and going out to Barcelona in the Champions League, stayed third in the table thanks to a virtuoso display from Germany striker Kuranyi.
Victory kept them within two points of second-placed Werder, who clinched a 2-1 win at Hansa Rostock when Ivan Klasnic turned in the rebound after Naldo's penalty was saved.
Bayern Munich, who visit Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday, lead with 60 points from 28 games and are on course for a 21st league title.
Werder have 53 points from 29, with Schalke on 51 in the third and final Champions League slot.
Hamburg SV, fourth on 48 points, also missed a late penalty as they drew 0-0 at Hertha Berlin.
Schalke made the most of a large slice of luck in the 31st minute against Cottbus. Marcelo Bordon's header from a free kick was going nowhere until Vragel da Silva inexplicably diverted it into his own net.
Kuranyi, whose place in Germany's squad has been called into question during a disappointing season, then took over the first match under caretaker coaches Mike Bueskens and Youri Mulder.
The 26-year-old prodded in a Fabian Ernst cross before blasting the third goal with a right-footer from the edge of the area four minutes before the break.
Kuranyi completed his hat-trick just before the hour and rounded off the scoring with a header from Rafinha's cross 10 minutes from time.
'I'm delighted to score so many goals but this was all about the team performance,' he told reporters. 'It was only because we played so well that I was able to score so many.'
Werder had to work hard to maintain their two-point advantage in second spot.
Torsten Frings gave them the lead with a 25-metre shot that went in off the post in the 57th minute.
Sebastian Haehnge equalised in the 76th but Frings won a penalty with eight minutes to go and Klasnic spared Naldo's blushes when he raced in to convert after a good save from the keeper.