BERLIN, May 3 (Reuters) - Werder Bremen beat Energie Cottbus 2-0 on Saturday to strengthen their grip on second place in the Bundesliga and leave Bayern Munich on the brink of their 21st league title.
Werder's victory leaves them nine points behind leaders Bayern with three games left to play.
Bayern have a big advantage in goal difference but to be mathematically sure of the title they need a point from their final four matches, starting away to VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday.
If they claim at least a draw from that game, they will be celebrating their 20th title since the Bundesliga era began in 1963 and their 21st of all time, including their first German championship success in 1932.
It would also be a third domestic double in four seasons, after their Cup final victory over Borussia Dortmund last month.
Third-placed Schalke 04 saw their hopes of claiming second fade when they were held 1-1 at home to Hanover 96.
Arnold Bruggink's free kick put Hanover ahead in the eighth minute and Schalke needed a fine equaliser from Halil Altintop, who burst past three defenders and chipped the keeper at the end of the first half, to claim a point.
Bayern lead the standings with 66 points, followed by Werder on 57 and Schalke on 55.
Hamburg SV and VfB Stuttgart stayed in the hunt for the third and final Champions League place after commanding wins.
Hamburg won 3-1 away to Hansa Rostock with two goals from Ivica Olic and one from Rafael van der Vaart, while outgoing champions Stuttgart strolled to a 4-1 victory at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.
They now have 51 points apiece in fourth and fifth, respectively. Bayer Leverkusen can join them on that mark if they win away to Duisburg on Sunday.
Werder long since gave up on the title, and coach Thomas Schaaf was simply pleased to put two points worth of daylight between his own team and Schalke in third.
Schaaf's side were in charge from the beginning but it was only in the second half that they created clear chances.
Markus Rosenberg's 67th minute opener finally meant they could relax and Hugo Almeida got the second with 11 minutes to go, tapping in at the far post after a brilliant move involving Tim Borowski and Rosenberg.
'We looked good but for some reason couldn't get anything tangible,' Schaaf said at a news conference. 'In the end our patience paid off.'