Bayern Munich beat Karlsruhe 1-0 to close the gap behind league leaders Hertha Berlin, who were humbled in Stuttgart, although they were without injured strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose. Bayern welcomed back Franck Ribery, who had been suffering with a shin injury, and the French midfield maestro made his mark in the 34th minute when he split the Karlsruhe defence to set up Argentina striker Jose Ernesto Sosa.
Sosa was partnering Lukas Podolski up front for Bayern, with both Toni and Klose suffering from ankle injuries. He took his chance by darting through the penalty area to drill Ribery's pass under Karlsruhe goalkeeper Markus Miller. Bayern had Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto to thank for the three points in the dying seconds, as he deflected an effort from Karlsruhe's Michael Mutzel over the bar.
Karlsruhe stay bottom, while the win keeps Bayern second, but just one point behind Hertha who were brought crashing down to earth after hosts Stuttgart scored two goals in four minutes to continue their rise up the table to sixth. Brazilian striker Cacau scored just two minutes after the break to put the hosts ahead before a header from Germany Under-21 midfielder Sami Khedira to double the lead on 51 minutes.
Third-placed Wolfsburg are also just a point behind Hertha after they won 3-0 at Arminia Bielefeld. Brazil striker Grafite netted in the 58th minute to become the league's joint top-scorer with 18 goals in 16 games, level with Hoffenheim's injured striker Vedad Ibisevic. With fourth-placed Hamburg in action against Schalke on 22 March, Hoffenheim dropped further back in the title race as their 2-2 draw at Hannover left them five points off the leaders in fifth.
Bayer Leverkusen are seventh after their 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. Although they hammered Stuttgart 4-0 the week before, Werder Bremen continue their erratic season as Borussia Dortmund captain Alexander Frei slotted home a 61st-minute penalty to take the three points as his side are ninth, with Bremen tenth in the table. Cologne remain in mid-table after their 2-0 win at second-from-bottom Energie Cottbus, while Borussia Moenchengladbach remain in the bottom three as they lost 1-0 on 20 March at home to fellow strugglers Bochum.