Bundesliga: Mainz Bayer 2 Leverkusen 3
Last Updated: 11/04/15 5:50pm
Bayer Leverkusen held on for a 3-2 win over Mainz to cement their fourth place in the Bundesliga, although they went close to throwing away a three-goal lead.
Heung-Min Son, Stefan Kiessling and Hakan Calhanoglu put Roger Schmidt's men into a commanding position with 15 minutes of the game to go, but two penalties from Ja-Cheol Koo set up a grandstand ending.
Leverkusen held on to increase their advantage over fifth-placed Schalke to 10 points and remain just two behind third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach in what now seems to be a straight race between the two for a place in the Champions League group stage next season.
The visitors did not show any after-effects to their midweek defeat to Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal as they kept Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius extremely busy early on.
Their endeavours culminated in the opening goal after 15 minutes with Calhanoglu lifting the ball to the far post where Son was unmarked to volley in.
Mainz responded with Koo heavily involved in the action as the hosts looked to get back into the game before the interval.
There was a frenetic pace inside the Coface Arena with neither team holding back, but for all the goalmouth action, there was to be no further goal before the interval.
There was no let up in the second half either with Kiessling doubling Leverkusen's lead, taking advantage of some weak Mainz defending to latch on to Roberto Hilbert's speculative ball forwards and beat Karius with a composed finish.
It appeared to be game over when Calhanoglu curled in a direct free-kick past Karius to make it three in the 73rd minute, but not long after Omer Toprak fouled Shinji Okazaki inside the penalty area and Mainz were offered a lifeline.
They took it with Koo sending Bernd Leno the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Calhanoglu had just been replaced when Leverkusen got another free-kick in a dangerous position, and Schmidt probably regretted his decision as he saw Gonzalo Castro miss the target.
His concern will have grown in the last minute when Mainz were awarded another penalty when Tin Jedvaj fouled Jairo, and Koo again sent Leno the wrong way to bring the hosts back to within a goal.
The fans urged Mainz forward, but Leverkusen succeeded in playing the clock down and holding on for maximum points.