Max Kruse and Christopher Trimmel got the goals as Union Berlin beat Cologne 2-1 to pull to within two points of the European places.
Union began the day in seventh, seven places and 13 points better off than their visitors, and they made the brighter start of the two sides at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. Grischa Prömel should have given them the lead in the opening few minutes when he met Nico Schlotterbeck's ball into the box, but he poked wide of a prone Timo Horn and his far post with the goal at his mercy. Cologne were forced into an early change soon after, when the injured - and booked - Jannes Horn made way for Rafael Czichos. Salih Özcan had a chance at the other end midway through the half, but Andreas Luthe showed why he has pulled ahead of the Liverpool-owned Loris Karius as Union's No.1, saving the shot after getting his angles right. Czichos then inadvertently blocked a Schlotterbeck header with his arm, but referee Deniz Aytekin let the indiscretion go after consultation with VAR. Schlotterbeck sent another header over the crossbar and Union's profligacy was punished when on the stroke of half-time when Ondrej Duda converted a penalty which Jonas Hector had earned.
The second half was only three minutes old when Kruse restored parity, though. Marius Wolf's handball in the area from a Julian Ryerson cross was adjudged to have been rather more avoidable than Czichos's in the first half, and the Union talisman stepped up to stroke home his eighth goal of the campaign. Cologne looked much livelier after that setback and dominated possession for much of the next half-hour, but their momentum was stopped in its tracks when Trimmel thumped home for 2-1 after meeting a Ryerson cross at the back post. Cologne coach Markus Gisdol rang the changes for the last 10 minutes, bringing on Dimitrios Limnios, Emmanuel Dennis and Kingsley Ehizibue, but the fresh legs failed to have the desired effect and Union closed out the 2-1 win.
- Kruse's team-best eight Bundesliga goals for Union have been scored at a rate of one every 110 minutes he has played.
- His penalty strike also offered a measure of revenge. Horn save from him in the reverse fixture was the only spot-kick Kruse has missed in the German top-flight in 20 attempts.
- Normally something of an assist machine, Trimmel's goal was his first league strike since July 2017, when Union were in Bundesliga 2.
- Duda's penalty was his third goal of the season, and first since December. Midfielders Elvis Rexhbecaj (five goals) and Ellyes Skhiri (four) have outscored him this term.
- Club captain Hector started his second consecutive game for Cologne, having missed the last two months with whiplash and then a thigh strain.
- Only Mainz (44) have conceded more goals (43) than Cologne in 2020/21.
Watch: Kruse: "Europe a dream, but we're under no illusions"
Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck - Trimmel (c), Prömel (Gentner 73'), Andrich, Ryerson (Bülter 88') - Kruse (Griesbeck 89'), Endo (Ingvartsen 61') - Musa (Pohjanpalo 73')
Unused subs: Karius, Gogia, Dajaku, Teuchert
Out: Awoniyi (thigh), Becker (ankle), Gießelmann (shoulder), Hübner (ill), Lenz (muscular), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer
Cologne: T. Horn - Wolf (Ehizibue 81'), Mere, J. Horn (Czichos 12'), Katterbach - Skhiri, Hector (c) (Jakobs 64') - Rexhbecaj (Limnios 81'), Meyer, Özcan (Dennis 81') - Duda
Unused subs: Zieler, Drexler, Cestic, Thielmann
Out: Andersson (knee), Bornauw (back), Kainz (match fitness)
Coach: Markus Gisdol