Bayern Munich extended their lead to eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga as their make-shift side drew 1-1 at ten-man Nuremberg on Saturday.
Although Bayern were missing injured star wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, coach Jupp Heynckes opted to leave Spain's Javi Martinez and Germany defenders Philipp Lahm and Holger Badstuber on the bench and rotated his squad.
With Bayern facing a crucial UEFA Champions League clash at Valencia on Tuesday, Heynckes was obviously thinking ahead to Europe and accepted the draw. "We can live with 1-1, I think it's not the end of the world," he said. "We started well and dominated, but failed to get the second or third goal.
"In the second-half we experienced a very different Nuremberg, one which was committed to playing forward more," he added. "Because of the second-half, we have to accept only taking a point."
The point was enough to extend Bayern's lead as ten-man Schalke suffered a 2-0 defeat at Leverkusen later Saturday evening with Germany midfielder Andre Schuerrle and striker Stefan Kiessling scoring either side of half-time.
Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender also hit the post with a second-half shot, while Kiessling had an 81st-minute penalty saved. Schalke were reduced to ten men as Greece defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos was shown a second yellow card late on. The Royal Blues' defeat means only two points now separate Schalke in second and fifth-placed Leverkusen.
Bayern needed just three minutes to take the lead at Nuremberg as Croatia striker Mandzukic pounced on a Toni Kroos pass and tapped home from close range as the guests got off to a flying start.
But Nuremberg managed to get back on level terms when ex-Munich midfielder Markus Feulner, who spent six years at Bayern as a youth player, smashed in his long-range shot on 46 minutes to level for the guests.
The hosts were reduced to ten men when midfielder Timo Gebhart was shown a second yellow card for elbowing Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger in the face with 14 minutes left. But Nuremberg hung on to claim a point which moved them up to 14th in the league.
Frankfurt hang in third
Eintracht Frankfurt stayed up with the league leaders in third by claiming a 4-2 win at bottom side Augsburg.
Augsburg's Sascha Moelders turned the ball into his own net on seven minutes to put Frankfurt ahead, then Stefan Aigner grabbed Eintracht's second on 32 minutes. Korea Republic midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol pulled a goal back when he drilled his shot into the Frankfurt goal on 45 minutes, but Aigner set up their third as midfielder Alexander Meier netted his eighth of the season on 52 minutes.
Moelders made amends for his earlier own-goal when he pulled it back to 3-2 on 64 minutes before Frankfurt's Meier slotted his second of the game when he converted a penalty with 15 minutes left.
There were three goals in the first 15 minutes in Dortmund as hosts Borussia ran out 3-1 wins over second-from-bottom Greuther Fuerth. After Borussia's Poland striker Robert Lewandowski netted slotted home after just three minutes, Fuerth's Zoltan Stieber levelled just two minutes later before Lewandowski converted a 15th-minute penalty.
Germany midfielder Mario Goetze made it 3-1 at half-time with a sublime goal on 42 minutes when he drew Fuerth goalkeeper Max Gruen to keep the defending champions fourth.
A second-half own goal by Dutch defender Roel Brouwers handed VfB Stuttgart a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Hamburg enjoyed a 1-0 win at home to Mainz as Korean striker Son Heung-Min scored the contentious winner in the 63 minutes after being set up by a good pass from midfielder Maximilian Beister.
Wolfsburg, 16th and among the relegation places, are at Hoffenheim on Sunday with ex-Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs having been installed as sports director after 13 years at Werder.
Caretaker coach Lorenz-Guenther Koestner is set to stay on as coach and Allofs has been tasked with keeping the 2009 champions up, while Werder Bremen host Fortuna Duesseldorf.