Germany striker Mario Gomez's first-half goal has given Bayern Munich a 1-0 win at struggling Hoffenheim on Sunday to claim their tenth successive victory and 20th Bundesliga win from 24 games this season.
Although 47 points separate the two teams in the table, Hoffenheim, second from bottom, worked hard to contain the league leaders before succumbing to their 16th league defeat of the season. They have won now only one of their last 14 games, including two draws and suffered 11 defeats.
Defeat at Greuther Fuerth next Saturday will put Hoffenheim bottom of the Bundesliga and in pole position to be relegated. In contrast, Bayern have had a week to remember after knocking holders Borussia Dortmund out of the German Cup last Wednesday and they remain 17 points clear at the top of the table.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes made five changes from the team which beat Dortmund 1-0 in Munich's cup quarter-final. Reserve goalkeeper Tom Stark starting for Manuel Neuer, Germany striker Mario Gomez started for Mario Mandzukic and Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri took Toni Kroos' place in the middle of midfield.
Germany's Jerome Boateng started at centre-back for Belgium's Daniel van Buyten, while France star Franck Ribery took his place on the left wing from Arjen Robben, left out of the matchday squad despite scoring Wednesday's winner. Despite the gulf separating the teams in the league, Hoffenheim made a bright start and contained Bayern's attack until the 38th minute.
Igor de Camargo's mistimed pass was snapped up by Bayern's Boateng, who fired in a cross for Ribery to headed back across goal to Gomez, who rolled his shot past Hoffenheim goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger clattered the crossbar twice with shots as Bayern pushed for the goal which would have put the game beyond doubt.
Mainz steals a point
In today's other Bundesliga match-up, Ivan Klasnic scored his first Bundesliga goal in almost five years as Mainz took a point from their trip to Fortuna Dusseldorf.
The former Bolton Wanderers forward, who was included in the Mainz starting XI for the first time this season, brought Thomas Tuchel's side level before half-time after a Bo Svensson own goal had put the hosts in front early on.
Dusseldorf arguably enjoyed the better chances of the game, but they were unable to find a way through as they picked up a rare draw to edge seven points clear of the relegation zone. The draw moves Mainz to within two points of the top six and goes some way towards making up for their midweek defeat to Freiburg in the DFB Cup.
Mainz could hardly have imagined a worse start to the game as goalkeeper Christian Wetklo found himself fishing the ball out of the net in the sixth minute when Svensson's flick took the ball into his own goal. Mainz suffered from that early blow but managed to weather the storm and keep a buoyant Fortuna side at bay.
Shortly before the interval, the visitors got the break they needed when a low cross from Marco Caligiuri, who had only been on the field a few minutes, was missed by Fortuna goalkeeper Fabian Giefer and Klasnic was on hand to open his account for the season. His last goal in the Bundesliga had come during his Werder Bremen days at the end of the 2007-08 season, and this was his 50th strike in Germany's top flight.
It did not seriously alter the tone of the game, though, as Fortuna continued to dominate proceedings. Their only fault was not producing the finish all of their hard work merited and, after a frustrating second 45 minutes, they had to raise the white flag and accept only a point at the Dusseldorf Arena.