Bayer Leverkusen moved to within seven points of fourth-placed Schalke with an away win at Cologne, while Mainz continued their impressive form.
Last Updated: 25/02/12 8:44pm
Bayer Leverkusen moved to within seven points of fourth-placed Schalke with an away win at Cologne in the Rhine derby, while there were also victories for Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Nurnberg, Mainz and Augsburg.
Mainz continued their impressive form as they hammered Kaiserslautern while Hertha Berlin were beaten by fellow relegation candidates Augsburg.
Midfielder Lars Bender staked his claim to start in Germany's friendly against France on Wednesday with two goals as Bayer Leverkusen defeated Cologne 2-0 and offered coach Robin Dutt some respite.
Last season's runners-up Leverkusen were under growing pressure after just two wins in their last seven league games but Bender opened the scoring in the 16th minute and claimed his second soon after the break, thanks to an outstanding pass from Renato Augusto.
Mainz continued their impressive form to go 10th with a 4-0 hammering of Kaiserslautern as Egypt star Mohamed Zidan scored for the fourth time in four games since his winter break move from Dortmund.
Veteran coach Otto Rehhagel's long-awaited return to the Bundesliga could not prevent Hertha Berlin slumping to their sixth successive defeat as they went down to a comprehensive 3-0 loss at Augsburg.
Rehhagel, 73, the former long-time Werder Bremen coach who won Euro 2004 with Greece and returned to the Bundesliga after 12 years, could do nothing to avoid Hertha's seventh consecutive defeat in all competitions that sent them down to 16th spot after a brace by Torsten Oehrl and Marcel Ndjeng's stoppage time goal.
Werder Bremen had their five-game unbeaten run snapped at home to Nurnberg to remain on 36 points in their fight for the Europa League spots.
A tight encounter saw both sides well-matched, until Alexander Esswein struck what proved to be the winner shortly after the hour mark.
Stuttgart are up to eighth after their 4-1 win at home to bottom side Freiburg as Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored for the third time in three league matches.
And finally, Hoffenheim won 2-1 at Wolfsburg with Sven Schipplock scoring the winner six minutes from time.
Werder Bremen face Nurnberg in the late kick-off.