Berlin: Mainz 05’s hopes of a first Champions League appearance faded on Sunday in a 2-1 defeat at Nuremberg, as did Hanover 96’s chances in a goalless draw with VfB Stuttgart.
Mainz missed a first-half penalty while Nuremberg extended their unbeaten Bundesliga run to nine matches thanks to two goals from Per Nilsson.
Mainz, unbeaten in their previous seven league games, were handed a golden chance when Nicolai Mueller rounded goalkeeper Raphael Schaefer and was upended by a reckless Javier Pinola tackle in the 28th minute.
Adam Szalai, Mainz’s top scorer with 13 goals, took the kick but the Hungarian fired high over the crossbar.
Nuremberg took advantage as Nilsson rose above the Mainz defence to head in a Hiroshi Kiyotake free kick nine minutes after half-time.
Mueller levelled on the hour, racing on to Jan Kirchhoff’s through ball and lobbing the onrushing Schaefer.
But Nuremberg had the last laugh when Nilsson scored at the far post after another Kiyotake free kick was flicked on by Hanno Balitsch.
Hanover and Stuttgart produced an uninspiring counter, short on chances, in the day’s second game.
Mainz are eighth in the table with 39 points, six adrift of fourth-placed Schalke 04 who are in the Champions League qualifying round spot, with six matches to play.
Hanover and Nuremberg have 38 points each alongside fading Hamburg SV.
Stuttgart, still looking over their shoulders, are 13th with 33 points, nine clear of Augsburg who are 16th in the relegation playoff spot.