Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich failed to take advantage of Borussia Dortmund's stalemate at Hertha Berlin when they also drew 0-0 at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
The big clash between third-placed Hertha and Dortmund in second turned out to be a damp squib with no goals, but Bayern could only restore their eight-point lead in the late game instead of romping 10 clear. Xabi Alonso was sent off on 84 minutes for two bookings.
Earlier, Schalke moved above Leverkusen into fourth with a 3-0 home win over VfL Wolfsburg and VfB Stuttgart triumphed 4-2 at Eintracht Frankfurt to power further from the drop zone after a fourth straight win.
It is beginning to look bleak for bottom side Hanover after Jairo Samperio took advantage of more poor defending in Mainz's 1-0 away win while midtable side Ingolstadt outgunned Augsburg 2-1.
Bayern, playing their first game since it was confirmed coach Pep Guardiola will take over at Manchester City next season, again had to play midfielder Joshua Kimmich in defence given the injury problems in their backline.
Leverkusen did not sufficiently test them however with Omer Toprak's header straight at Manuel Neuer their best effort at goal, although the hosts were livelier after the break.
Bayern were equally toothless, with even the introduction of Thomas Mueller as a second-half substitute failing to offer enough of a spark as the Germany man shot over with their best chance.
Leverkusen forward Stefan Kiessling was lucky to stay on the pitch after a series of robust challenges but Spain's Alonso was dismissed for Bayern after two slightly late tackles.
"It was a game between two teams with international quality. We had very few chances," Bayern defender Holger Badstuber said.
The buildup to the Schalke game was dominated by the return to Gelsenkirchen of Wolfsburg midfielder Julian Draxler but he could only watch as his former team-mates easily secured victory.
Daniel Caligiuri smacked the bar from distance for Wolfsburg but after another chance for the visitors, Schalke immediately burst up the other end and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored with an unstoppable low shot from just outside the area on 24 minutes.
It was soon 2-0 with Johannes Geis' excellent dipping free kick bouncing into the net although goalkeeper Diego Benaglio could possibly have done better. Alessandro Schoepf added a third late on.
Draxler shrugged off the flu to start and although he was booed during his initial touches by the home fans, he put in a solid display, unlike many of his stuttering side.
Wolfsburg dropped to eighth and look a shadow of the team who finished runners-up last term having not won for seven league games.
Despite an up-and-down season, Schalke are now just two points behind third-placed Hertha after a somewhat dour draw in Berlin against Dortmund.
The only ripple of excitement was caused by the sight of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho sat in the directors' box alongside Dortmund general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke.
Ilkay Guendogan and Marco Reus returned from illness for Dortmund but both sides lacked their usual zip and cancelled each other out.
Stuttgart in contrast were again full of verve as they trampled Frankfurt to jump 10 points clear of the automatic drop zone.
The visitors took the lead after Christian Gentner finished off Lukas Rupp's fine pass and Daniel Didavi netted from close range just before the break to double their lead.
Eintracht cut the deficit with Alex Meier showing his poaching instincts to score on 52 minutes for his 11th goal this season.
Meier, last term's Bundesliga top scorer, then went close when his effort was blocked on the line yet it was Juergen Kramny's newly resilient side who scored next through Georg Niedermeier's towering header.
There was time for more drama with Didavi sent off for a second yellow card on 67 minutes. But Eintracht were also soon down to 10 when Carlos Augusto Zambrano was dismissed for a professional foul and Filip Kostic netted the penalty. Szabolcs Huszti's late effort was a mere consolation.
"It was a good game which could have gone either way," said Kramny.
Hanover are seven points from complete safety after another sorry display at home to Mainz. Samperio was afforded the freedom of the penalty area to scuff home midway through the first half.
Thomas Schaaf's Hanover side failed to create much and stay level on a measly 14 points from 20 games alongside Hoffenheim, who host lowly Darmstadt on Sunday when SV Hamburg also welcome Cologne.
Sixth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach got their European push back on track with 5-1 home win on Friday over struggling Werder Bremen, who occupy the relegation playoff spot.