A Kevin Kuranyi double put Schalke 04 top of the Bundesliga on Saturday in a 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, as Bayern Munich lost again, a shattering setback ahead of their Champions League clash against Manchester United.
Kuranyi scored both goals in the first-half to put Felix Magath-coached Schalke two points clear at the top with six games remaining. The Royal Blues, who are chasing their first German league title since 1958, also saw Kuranyi take over from Leverkusen's injured Stefan Kiessling as the league's top-scorer with 17 goals.
"That was a very nice win," said Magath, whose side face Bayern in the Bundesliga next Saturday. "Kevin gave us an early lead which helped us to relax and gives us a confidence boost ahead of next weekend's game. But we still have lots of work to do, the team will be back in training tomorrow morning."
Ex-Germany striker Kuranyi buried his first effort in the top right-hand corner of the net on 11 minutes and then showed he is just as lethal in the air with a 27th minute header.
Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuner also stole a march on opposite number and Germany's first-choice goalkeeper Rene Alder ahead of June's World Cup with both set to travel to South Africa in the Germany squad.
Earlier, Bayern suffered a second consecutive Bundesliga defeat when they slumped to a 2-1 home loss to Stuttgart. The German giants must now pick themselves up in time to face Manchester United at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-final first-leg.
Bayern took the lead through Croatia striker Ivica Olic, but Stuttgart hit back with goals from Christian Traesch and Ciprian Marica to hand the Munich giants another defeat to follow last weekend's shock setback at Frankfurt.
This was their fourth league loss of the season. "That [defeat] really hurt," admitted Bayern coach Louis van Gaal. "It is always hard to play against a good defensive side, but Stuttgart held onto the ball well. A defeat always has an influence on preperations for the next game, but it will cost us more energy before the game against Manchester."
Bayern took the lead when Olic blasted a cross from his Croatian compatriot Danijel Pranjic into the back of the net on 32 minutes. Stuttgart drew level when defender Traesch fired in a shot from 24 metres out which deflected off the shoulder of Bayern's young defender Holger Badstuber and into the back of the net.
Romanian striker Marica headed home a cross from Germany's Brazil-born striker Cacau on 50 minutes to put the visitors ahead. Van Gaal introduced play-makers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben to try and get their side back in the match, but to no avail.
After last Sunday's shock 5-1 win at defending champions Wolfsburg, bottom side Hertha Berlin picked up yet another point when they held fourth-placed Dortmund to a 0-0 draw. Greek striker Theofanis Gekas, who scored three goals against Wolfsburg, found the net with a second-half header, but the effort was ruled offside. The result leaves Hertha four points from safety.
Werder Bremen remain on course for a top-five finish with a 4-2 win over relegation contenders Nuremberg despite finishing with 10 men. Cologne did their chances of staying up the power of good with a 4-1 win at bottom-three side Hanover. Defending champions Wolfsburg remain in mid-table after their 2-0 win at Mainz after two goals from striker Edin Dzeko. Mid-table Hoffenheim host strugglers Freiburg on Sunday, while Hamburg are at Borussia Moenchengladbach.