Defending champions Borussia Dortmund put one hand on the Bundesliga title on Saturday as their 2-1 win at Ruhr valley rivals Schalke left them nine points clear at the top of the table.
With second-placed Bayern Munich hosting Mainz on Saturday night, Jurgen Klopp's side took the opportunity to extend their lead, having beaten the Bavarians 1-0 in Dortmund on Wednesday. With three games left after this weekend, Dortmund are in pole position to win their second consecutive title, but the visitors had to come from behind in Gelsenkirchen.
"That was real work for all parties with Borussia Dortmund as the lucky winners," said Klopp. "We squeezed out everything we had against a robust, physical opponent and we were better after it went 1-1. That was a hard opponent on a tough ground.
"After we took the lead, we defended with real passion, the team has a great character and never seems satisfied."
Schalke took the lead when Peruvian forward Jefferson Farfan blasted his shot home from the edge of the penalty area with just nine minutes on the clock, the ball deflecting off Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa. But the champions roared back as Polish defender Lukasz Piszczek drilled home the equaliser from a seemingly impossible angle on 17 minutes.
Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl then scored the crucial winner on 63 minutes from a corner when Schalke defender Christoph Metzelder inadvertently headed down into Kehl's path and the visiting skipper fired home.
In claiming victory, Dortmund set a new Bundesliga record of 25 games without defeat. They now face fourth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, bottom side Kaiserslautern and Freiburg before the league finishes on 5 May.
Kaiserslautern hopes dwindle
After Mainz, Bayern face Werder Bremen, Stuttgart and Cologne in their title run-in. Kaiserslautern have no more than a mathematical chance of avoiding relegation after they were beaten 2-0 at home by Nurnberg, which kept them nine points from safety.
Ten-man Hertha Berlin remain second from bottom despite picking up a point in a dramatic 3-3 draw at Bayer Leverkusen, after they scored three goals in 15 second-half minutes. The hosts went 2-0 up through attacking midfielder Andre Schuerrle on 44 minutes and striker Stefan Kiessling on 51 minutes.
Berlin pulled a goal back when Germany Under-21 forward Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored with a header on 62 minutes, but Hertha were reduced to ten men when captain Levan Kobiashvili brought down Eren Derdiyok in the area.
Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed Simon Rolfes' penalty attempt onto the post on 66 minutes and away from danger then five minutes later it was 2-2 as Turkish striker Tunay Torun equalised. The 21-year-old grabbed his second on 77 minutes after Raffael squared for him to drill home his shot, before Kiessling equalised on 83 minutes.
Cologne, who are at Moenchengladbach on Sunday, are in the third relegation place, and now four points behind 15th-placed Augsburg, who poached a 2-1 win at Wolfsburg. Hamburg also gave themselves a fighting chance of staying up with a 1-0 win at home to Hannover.
Stuttgart are fifth in the league and challenging for a UEFA Champions League place after their 4-1 defeat of Werder Bremen on Friday night extended their run without defeat to nine games.