Berlin: Bayer Leverkusen beat Hoffenheim 2-1 on Sunday to join a four-team pack chasing leaders Bayern Munich with their fourth win in five games.
Lars Bender slotted in from close range after Simon Rolfes headed the ball into his path in the 15th minute and Spanish defender Daniel Carvajal completed a move he started for his maiden Bundesliga goal seven minutes before the break.
Leverkusen, who have lost just one of their last 10 matches, move up to 24 points, as many as third-placed Schalke 04 and Eintracht Frankfurt and one behind champions Borussia Dortmund, who are second. Bayern, who crushed Hanover 96 5-0 on Saturday, are nine points clear.
Hoffenheim, who battled back in the second half and cut the deficit on the hour with defender Fabian Johnson’s shot, slipped down to the relegation play-off spot with just one win in eight matches, piling more pressure on embattled coach Markus Babbel.
Earlier on Sunday, Freiburg outclassed regional rivals VfB Stuttgart 3-0 to quietly climb into sixth place and trigger European aspirations.
Jan Rosenthal fired in from 18 metres midway through the first half and defender Pavel Krmas took advantage of keeper Sven Ulreich’s poor clearance to score his first goal of the season in the 67th.
Max Kruse notched his fourth goal of the season six minutes later, slipping the ball through Ulreich’s leg with Stuttgart’s defence reeling.
The hosts, who returned to the Bundesliga in 2009, should have added at least two more in the second half with Stuttgart unable to stem the continuous flow of Freiburg attacks.
Freiburg, who last played in Europe a decade ago, move up to sixth on 19 points.
The visitors, looking drained from their 5-1 Europa League victory at Steaua Bucharest on Thursday, are stuck in 12th place on 16 following their first away loss after a six-game unbeaten streak.
Borussia Moenchengladbach snatched an 85th-minute equaliser from winger Patrick Herrmann to deny bottom-placed Augsburg their second win of the season after they took an early lead through Sascha Moelders.
On Saturday Dortmund moved into second spot on 25 points after a narrow 2-1 win at Mainz 05 while fellow Champions League competitors Schalke dropped to third following a 1-1 draw with Frankfurt.