Gelsenkirchen - Ten-man Bayer 04 Leverkusen loosened their grip on third place after fellow UEFA Champions League hopefuls FC Schalke 04 came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at the Veltins Arena.
Teemu Pukki was the catalyst for the unlikely turnaround, the second-half substitute getting his name on the scoresheet and winning the penalty that saw Ömer Toprak sent off and Raffael scoring from the spot to cancel out goals in either half from Leverkusen duo and .
Leverkusen started brightly and should arguably have taken the lead inside six minutes when Sidney Sam, Kießling and Rolfes combined to tee up , who could only prod tamely at onrushing goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand. Schalke's then raised the stakes with a trademark burst into Werkself territory, selling Daniel Carvajal an exquisite dummy, before drawing a magnificent save from a full-stretch Bernd Leno.
Schalke were making good use of the ball in advanced areas and, with Ciprian Marica's clever decoy run fashioning a pocket of space in front of the 18-yard box, Leno could only stop and stare as Raffael sent a fierce effort narrowly past the upright. The Royal Blues' Samba sharpshooter chanced his arm from a similar distance moments later, but on this occasion fired straight at the keeper.
Werkself strike twice
Sami Hyypiä's charges delivered a rapid retort as Carvajal swiped into the side netting and a vicious Schürrle strike met the steel-like palm of Hildebrand, but when Leverkusen came again, the Schalke stopper was helpless to prevent Rolfes meeting Lars Bender's cross and heading home his second goal of the campaign.
Draxler passed up a glorious opportunity to get his side back on level terms shortly after the restart and it was a chance the Royal Blues hot shot was left to rue as Kießling got the slightest of touches on Michal Kadlec's teasing right-wing free kick to double Leverkusen's lead.
Pukki proves worth
Chasing the game, Schalke coach Jens Keller threw Pukki into the mix at Marica's expense, with the Finland international needing just five minutes to make his mark, reducing the arrears from close range after Leno could only parry Michel Bastos' initial effort on goal.
Leno atoned somewhat for his earlier spillage with a fine save to keep out Christian Fuchs' dipping drive, but Schalke were not to be denied a share of the spoils, with Toprak seeing red for his challenge on the lively Pukki, leaving Raffael to tuck away the resulting spot-kick four minutes from normal time.
Line-ups and statistics