Bochum lead the clutch of sides vying to get out of Bundesliga 2 and play in the Bundesliga next season, but the likes of Greuther Fürth, Holstein Kiel and Hamburg are not far behind.
The top two are guaranteed their place in the Bundesliga for 2021/22, while the team that finishes third will face a two-legged play-off against the first division's 16th-placed team to determine the final outcome of who goes up and who goes down.
bundesliga.com looks at the runners and riders jostling for a shot in the big time...
Position: 1st (automatic promotion)
Points: 63 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +25
Season so far: Could this finally be the year for Bochum? They haven't been in the Bundesliga since 2009/10 and this looks to be their best chance of a return in the last decade. Thomas Reis' team have stormed to the summit of the Bundesliga 2 table on the back of 13 wins in 19 games since the turn of the year, and need just two points from their remaining two fixtures to seal the deal.
Key man: Few players have shown such an all-round attacking threat in the second tier this season as Robert Zulj. The former Hoffenheim and Union Berlin man is enjoying the best campaign of his career with 13 goals and 15 assists, meaning he has had a direct hand in almost half of Bochum's 57 league goals. Lucky for Reis, he isn't just reliant on Zulj, though. Simon Zoller has also made a handy contribution of 15 goals and nine assists.
Remaining fixtures: Nuremberg (a), Sandhausen (h)
Position: 2nd (automatic promotion)
Points: 62 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +24
Season so far: Kiel came close to back-to-back promotions with a play-off defeat to Wolfsburg in 2017/18, while this season they made global headlines by knocking out holders Bayern Munich in the second round of the DFB Cup. They made it through to the semi-finals, where they lost to Borussia Dortmund, but Bundesliga promotion will be their primary goal. Only six defeats all season is the fewest in the division, and they are now just a win away from securing automatic promotion.
Key man: Holstein are all about control, boasting the meanest defence in Bundesliga 2, but also being the lowest scorers in the top four. When things are tight, you turn to your captain, who in Kiel is Hauke Wahl. The centre-back is the only player at the club to have played every minute in all competitions this season, most famously scoring the 95th-minute equaliser against Bayern to take the game to extra-time and ultimately penalties. The 26-year-old is third in the squad for the number of challenges won.
Remaining fixtures: Karlsruhe (a), Darmstadt (h)
Position: 3rd (promotion play-off)
Points: 58 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +22
Season so far: Fürth had a stuttering start to the campaign before their first win on Matchday 5 away at promotion rivals Holstein Kiel. They have since stormed up from 16th place and even topped the table in December. Since then, Stefan Leitl's team have floated between second and fifth, showing just how tight things are at the top. Having taken points of Kiel, Bochum and Hamburg over the season, their dream of only a second Bundesliga campaign in the club's history, after 2012/13, remains in touching distance.
Key man: Captain and striker Branimir Hrgota is the team's top scorer with 13, American midfielder Julian Green has shone brightly with eight goals and a pair of assists, but the star of the show has arguably been left-back David Raum. The local boy has missed only 86 minutes of the campaign and sits second in assists charts behind Zulj with 13. The 22-year-old, who was also part of Stefan Kuntz's Germany squad at the 2021 UEFA European U21 Championship group stage during the March internationals, will join Hoffenheim at the end of the season.
Remaining fixtures: Paderborn (a), Fortuna Düsseldorf (h)
Points: 53 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +24
Season so far: A 2-0 victory in Bochum on Matchday 25 seemed to spark the long-time league leaders back into life, ending a run of five games without victory to move into the top two once again, but HSV threw away a three-goal lead against Hannover on Matchday 27 to draw 3-3. Subsequent defeats to Darmstadt and Sandhausen and draws with Regensburg and Karlsruhe are typical of what's been a roller-coaster campaign in the Red Shorts' battle to rejoin the Bundesliga ranks after a three-year exile.
Key man: Hamburg have figured out one of the keys to earning promotion from Bundesliga 2 is to have Simon Terodde in your team. The 33-year-old is the division's all-time top scorer with 139 goals in 250 games across spells with six different clubs, guiding both VfB Stuttgart and Cologne to the title in his last two second-tier campaigns. He's again the league's top scorer this season with 21 goals, making it the fourth time in a row he's passed the 20-goal mark. The next best HSV player in terms of goals is Sonny Kittel on six.
Remaining fixtures: Osnabrück (a), Eintracht Braunschweig (h)
Points: 53 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +7
Season so far: After final-day relegation heartbreak last season, Düsseldorf are knocking at the door of an immediate return to the Bundesliga, A run of nine games unbeaten across December and January made up for a slow start, but Uwe Rösler's side have struggled in games against fellow promotion candidates and had the momentum of three straight victories to start April checked by mid-table Paderborn on Matchday 30. A last-gasp 3-2 victory over Karlsruhe in their rescheduled Matchday 28 fixture, however, has given them fresh hope of at least making the promotion play-off place.
Key man: As has been the case for several years now, Rouwen Hennings is Fortuna's beacon of hope. The 33-year-old is their top scorer again this season with nine, after getting 15 in the 2019/20 Bundesliga.
Remaining fixtures: Erzgebirge Aue (h), Greuther Fürth (a)
Points: 51 (32 games played)
Goal difference: +5
Season so far: Heidenheim came agonisingly close to a maiden top-flight promotion last season, ultimately losing the play-off on away goals to Werder Bremen after finishing third in Bundesliga 2. They're among the top three best teams in the Rückrunde, but Hinrunde inconsistencies and business-end defeats to a handful of sides above them have all but put promotion behind them. Their improbable hopes of a securing a play-off return will be over if Kiel beat Hannover on 10 May.
Key man: The main man this season has been summer signing Christian Kühlwetter. The striker - a former Cologne youth product - has contributed 13 goals and five assists.
Remaining fixtures: Darmstadt (a), Karlsruhe (h)