Despite losing numerous key players in the summer, and replacing them with largely young, untested alternatives, Borussia Dortmund were still regarded as Bayern Munich's number one challengers coming into the 2016/17 season.
Falling short not only of the champions but also second-placed RB Leipzig is certainly no disgrace for the DFB Cup winners, however, in what must be seen as a transitional season which promises a bright future for BVB, who still reached all their season's objectives.
We take a look back at Dortmund's 2016/17 campaign.
Ins and outs
It was a busy summer of wheeling and dealing for coach Thomas Tuchel, whose hands were largely tied by the decisions to allow Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan to leave. That ripped the spine out of the team which had pushed Bayern harder than anybody else in 2015/16 and Tuchel had the complex task of piecing a team together which could live up to the club's perennial lofty ambitions.
EURO 2016 winner Raphael Guerreiro proved to be an inspired signing, as was experienced defender Marc Bartra from Barcelona. Mario Götze was brought home in a move which underlined Dortmund's ambitions, but it was an unknown prospect who proved to be the Westphalians' most inspired signing: Ousmane Dembele.
The 115th Klassiker was one Dortmund will remember fondly, as it saw them inflict the first defeat of the season on Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich and dislodge them from the top of the table on Matchday 11. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal was enough for the Westphalians to take all three points and reduce the arrears on Bayern to three points, with RB Leipzig benefitting by rising to the top of the standings.
It was Dortmund's first win over their rivals since April 2014 and a timely reminder that they are not standing still while Bayern march away with title after title. A spectacular 8-4 win over Legia Warsaw in the Champions League - a competition Dortmund would reach the last eight of - followed just a few days later, but they were brought back down from the crest of the wave they were riding in a defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt the following weekend, underling the inconsistencies which ultimately prevented Dortmund's season from taking flight.
Watch: Highlights of Dortmund's Klassiker win over Bayern:
Aubameyang laid down the gauntlet to Robert Lewandowski after the pair met in the Supercup, and he followed up his threat to dethrone him as the Bundesliga's top scorer with actions. 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga outings and a further seven in the Champions League earned the Gabon international his stripes as one of Europe's top strikers. He crowned his own remarkable season with the winning goal in the DFB Cup final: when Dortmund needed it, Aubameyang delivered his best season ever.
Secret to success: SIGNAL IDUNA PARK
It is the most capacious stadium in Germany, and a daunting sight for visiting teams. Dortmund did not lose a single game at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK this season, drawing four and winning 13 – that is an identical record to Bayern Munich's at the Allianz Arena. Over 81,000 fans packed in week in, week out to urge Dortmund to 43 points on home soil – a substantial slice of the 64 points which secured them third place and a berth in the Champions League group stage next season.
The players still needed to perform, though, and Dortmund did this with a blend of young, vibrant players who all had points to prove. Dembele is a case in point, hitting the ground running in his first season in the Bundesliga – almost literally, with his burst of pace and dizzying dribbles driving defenders crazy. Aubameyang was a guarantee for goals while the likes of Guerreiro and Bartra also adapted swiftly to their new surroundings. With Christian Pulisic becoming more and more the real thing, this youthful squad will take a lot out of this season to put in the bank for a profitable future with high interest.
Watch: Dortmund's daunting SIGNAL IDUNA PARK