German champions Wolfsburg rekindled their hopes of European football next season with a 4-0 home win against Hoffenheim on Sunday.
Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko scored a double which put him joint top of the Bundesliga scorers list as his team sit ninth in the table, 16 points behind leaders Bayern Munich with five games remaining.
Dzeko opened after 25 minutes, before Italian World Cup winner Andrea Barzagli claimed the hosts' second six minutes into the second half with Bosnian midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic netting the third on 74. Dzeko put the game beyond doubt with his second a minute later as his 18th Bundesliga goal of the season put him joint top with Schalke's Kevin Kuranyi and Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling.
Wolfsburg, who have won six of their past seven Bundesliga ties, could still qualify for the Europa League, as they trail just five points off the fifth spot in the league. They are still in the running in this season's Europa League as they host English side Fulham in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 deficit this week. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, suffered their fifth defeat since January leaving them rooted in 11th with 34 points, as their coach Ralf Rangnick battles to save his job.
In Sunday's late game, Hamburg could only muster a goalless draw at home against second-from-bottom Hanover, as they remain sixth in the table with just 14 points since the return from the winter break.
Ribery return lifts Bayern
Bayern Munich strengthened their title credentials on Saturday with a crucial 2-1 win at Bundesliga rivals Schalke as the Bavarians opened up a one-point lead. After their Champions League quarter-final comeback against Manchester United in midweek Bayern proved their staying power as they scored twice in as many minutes midway through the first half to stun their rivals, who last won the title in 1958. Bayern now have 59 points from their 29 games to 58 for Schalke.
Frenchman Franck Ribery netted his fourth goal of the season as Bayern won at the Veltins Arena for the second time in ten days, adding to their German Cup success, to shrug off recent league losses to Frankfurt and Stuttgart. Bayern coach Louis van Gaal was delighted after Thomas Mueller's goal, just 70 seconds after Ribery's opener, proved enough for full points with Kuranyi's header scant consolation for Schalke. "We are leaders and still in three competitions - even down to ten men [Bayern had Hamit Altintop send off] I was not worried as I knew Schalke would struggle to produce," insisted the Dutchman.
Ribery, starting a league match for the first time since February 28 after an injury-plagued season, snaffled the opener with a right-foot shot after good work from Bastian Schweinsteiger. Mueller made it 2-0 after home defender Rafinha could only clear as far as Altintop, who fed Mueller for a neat finish.
Schalke coach Felix Magath, who led Bayern to two domestic doubles before his 2007 sacking, was unable to conjure a recovery though Germany international Kuranyi did reduce the arrears with his 18th goal of the season. Magath is hoping to win the title with a third different club having shocked Bayern - and the rest of the country - by leading unfashionable Wolfsburg to the crown last season.
Title aspirants Bayer Leverkusen went down 3-2 at Eintracht Frankfurt despite a brace for Kiessling. Elsewhere, Dortmund took advantage of Leverkusen's fourth loss in a month to close the gap on third place - worth a Champions League qualifying round slot - to a point with a 2-1 win over Werder Bremen while Stuttgart are up to seventh after a 2-1 success over Borussia Moenchengladbach.