Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko scored a hat-trick as leaders VfL Wolfsburg crushed Hanover 96 5-0 to close in on their first German Bundesliga title with one match left.
|Dzeko warrior: the Bosnian wheels away after his second [GALLO/GETTY]
The league's leading striker Grafite added two more for Wolfsburg, who are top with 66 points, two ahead of Bayern Munich who were held to a 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim.
VfB Stuttgart climbed to third place, also on 64, with a 2-0 win over Energie Cottbus, leaving Hertha Berlin a point behind on 63 after they failed to beat Schalke 04 in a goalless draw that saw their hopes for a first title since 1931 evaporate.
Bottom placed Karlsruhe SC reignited their fight against relegation on Saturday when they stunned hosts Werder Bremen 3-1 to keep their hopes alive after Cottbus' defeat and Arminia Bielefeld's 6-0 crushing by fifth-place Borussia Dortmund.
"The chance to bring the title to Wolfsburg is now huge," said coach Felix Magath, who will join Schalke 04 at the end of the season.
"This was a crucial step. We made our life easier with this win. But nothing has been decided yet."
Wolfsburg struck after only 14 minutes when Dzeko chested down a cross from Japan's Makoto Hasebe and unleashed an unstoppable shot into keeper Robert Enke's top corner.
Brazilian striker Grafite quickly added two more, the first on 33 minutes from close range and an almost identical goal three minutes later as Hanover, with the worst defence in the league, threw in the towel.
Dzeko then netted his second when he headed in a Zvjezdan Misimovic cross before grabbing his 25th league goal 10 minutes before the end when he headed in another Hasebe cross.
Champs on ropes
Bayern Munich had something to cheer about when they struck after 16 minutes but from there on it was pure agony for the champions.
Hoffenheim failed to clear in the box allowing Franck Ribery, outstanding throughout the match, to fire home his ninth goal of the season.
The hosts quickly recovered, levelling five minutes later when midfielder Carlos Eduardo sent a perfect through ball for Demba Ba who raced past Martin Demichelis and slotted home despite a late challenge by Lucio.
Lukas Podolski and Demichelis missed big chances to score from two metres before Carlos Eduardo scored the hosts' second.
Wellington's header bounced off the post and rolled into the path of his fellow Brazilian just inside the box.
Ribery, who could leave at the end of the season if Bayern fail to clinch the second spot leading to automatic European Champions League qualification, continued to torment the hosts.
His pinpoint cross found Luca Toni who headed in to level a minute before the break and seconds before half time the Frenchman found Podolski with an amazing flick but the striker was again denied by goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
Ribery saw his header in the 74th saved again by the keeper before Toni fired his shot from close range into the side netting as Bayern desperately poured forward for a late winner.
Bayern's interim coach Jupp Heynckes praised his players' fighting spirit.
"Overall I am very satisfied with my team apart from the first 15 minutes," Heynckes said.
"The players showed great character."