Borussia Dortmund piled more misery on Hanover with a 1-0 win on Saturday but there was some good news for the Bundesliga bottom side with relegation rivals Werder Bremen and Julian Nagelsmann's new charges Hoffenheim drawing 1-1.
Dortmund were without injured top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but Henrikh Mkhitaryan's superb second-half goal cut the gap to leaders Bayern Munich to five points. The defending champions can extend it back to eight points with a win at Augsburg on Sunday.
Hoffenheim were being coached for the first time by 28-year-old Nagelsmann and although they took the lead when Andrej Kramaric's header went in off goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald, hosts Bremen grabbed an equally scrappy leveller through Papy Djilobodji.
The visitors, who saw coach Huub Stevens resign on Wednesday because of heart problems, were forced to dig in late on after Kramaric's second yellow on 77 minutes.
Nagelsmann, the youngest ever Bundesliga coach having been promoted from the youth setup, already showed himself to be humble saying: "It is a point won for us. Bremen had the better chances."
Hanover's seventh straight league defeat left them on 14 points from 21 games with Hoffenheim on 15 also in the automatic dropzone and Werder on 20 in the relegation playoff spot.
Bayer Leverkusen moved third with a 2-1 comeback win at Darmstadt after Hertha Berlin lost 2-0 at resurgent VfB Stuttgart. VfL Wolfsburg snapped a seven-game winless run with a 2-0 home victory over Ingolstadt.
Struggling Eintracht Frankfurt lost 3-1 at ninth-placed Cologne in a very tetchy late game to extend their streak of never having not won there in 22 years.
Alex Meier scored a typical poacher's goal to hand the visitors the lead but Yannick Gerhardt soon hit back. Dominique Heintz headed in a free kick midway through the second half and Anthony Modeste swept home for 3-1 as Eintracht dropped to just a point above Werder.
SV Hamburg host Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday. Mainz beat Schalke 2-1 on Friday.
Dortmund played Marco Reus up top on his own with Aubameyang out and the Germany forward almost broke the deadlock in the first half when his free-kick struck the bar.
Thomas Tuchel's side eventually netted after a swift counterattack from one box to the other culminated in Armenia's Mkhitaryan cutting inside and arrowing an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner of the net on 57 minutes.
"It was very tough," said Tuchel. "We were too imprecise and little mistakes crept in after 15 or 20 minutes.
"We know we can play better. We are just very happy that we have got away with it today."
Leverkusen quickly forgot their midweek German Cup exit to Werder by jumping up to third, level on 35 points with Hertha, after coming through a tricky test at Darmstadt.
Sandro Wagner's brave header gave the home side a 28th minute lead on a boggy pitch but Leverkusen, without injured top striker Javier Hernandez, were given a helping hand when Aytac Sulu headed into his own goal after an hour.
Julian Brandt grabbed a scrappy winner 13 minutes from time with Darmstadt appeals for offside ignored.
Stuttgart won for a fifth league game in a row to damage Hertha's surprise Champions League ambitions.
Serey Die's crisp strike early in the second half gave Juergen Kramny's side the impetus and Filip Kostic settled matters as the midtable hosts recovered from their Cup loss to Dortmund.
Last term's runners-up Wolfsburg finally found their groove after an awful run with Julian Draxler grabbing the opener at home to Ingolstadt after a well-worked move.
Robin Knoche bagged their second before the break to help the Wolves steady the ship in eighth place and stop the rot ahead of their Champions League last 16 first-leg clash at Gent on Wednesday.
Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 17:47
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Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 20:34