Stuttgart - A late winner from Robert Lewandowski ensured the 2012/13 title race was prolonged for another week yet as Borussia Dortmund prevailed 2-1 at VfB Stuttgart.
In a pulsating encounter it was Dortmund who drew first blood as Marco Reus' whipped delivery was flicked home by the head of substitute Lukas Piszczek. Romanian international Alexandru Maxim levelled proceedings in the second half but after Georg Niedermeier was sent off for the hosts, Dortmund sealed the three points thanks to Lewandowski's 20th of the campaign.
The Yellow-Blacks made it clear from the start that they were not going to put the title on a plate for FC Bayern Munich, but their attacking intent did give rise to an early counter from Niedermeier saw his free header parried by Roman Weidenfeller for the game's first chance and so the pendulum began to swing.
A delightful flick through from Lewandowski sent Reus hurtling through for BVB, but the Germany star was unable to poke his finish past the onrushing Sven Ulreich. Stuttgart soon thought they had broken the deadlock only for Vedad Ibisevic's header to be ruled out for offside, before the Bosnian frontman sent Ibrahima Traore scampering through. This time Weidenfeller held his ground to make an excellent save from the Guinean.Dortmund responded with another Lewandowski-Reus combo, the former again feeding the latter, whose dinked finish bounced just the wrong side of the upright.
Instead, the breakthrough came from the most unlikely of sources. After Marcel Schmelzer was taken off with a suspected broken nose, his replacement Piszczek needed only seconds to get himself on the scoresheet, glancing in Reus' teasing free-kick to earn the titleholders a half-time lead.
Though the second period began in less frantic fashion than the first, the game soon picked up again with the unmarked Niedermeier spurning another great headed chance. At the other end Lewandowski linked up superbly with Mario Götze, whose run down the left and cut-back the Pole was unable to force home. Götze then twice had to clear off his own line from a Stuttgart corner as the action continued to sway back and forth.
Lewandowski wins it
As the hour mark came and went, there was a sense that a home goal was on the cards and on 63 minutes quick-throw in from Antonio Rüdiger was laid off nicely by Christian Gentner for Maxim, who controlled well before firing across goal left-footed to level the scores. However, the hosts' joy was tempered less than ten minutes later as Niedermeier was shown a second yellow for an over-zealous lunge on Götze.
With VfB left battling with ten men for the final quarter, Dortmund almost took immediate advantage when Piszczek sprinted through on the right of the box, only for his finish to be repelled by the face of Ulreich. The Stuttgart keeper was again on alert to deny Neven Subotic from the ensuing corner and a heroic Gotoku Sakai clearance then looked to have scuppered the away side's chances of snatching victory. However, with home legs growing ever more tired, Lewandowski ghosted in to convert Piszczek's low centre and ensure the top two remain competitive for another seven days at least.
Line-ups and statistics