Wolfsburg edged the first leg of the 2016/17 relegation play-off with Eintracht Braunschweig with a 1-0 win, and there is every chance that the second leg could match some of the dramatic winner-takes-all match-ups of yesteryear...
2015/16: Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Nürnberg 1-1/1-0
The Eagles preserved their Bundesliga status after a fraught, emotionally draining clash. Just 24 hours before the first leg, Frankfurt sipper Marco Russ had learned the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Russ, then 30, bravely decided to play but his own goal gave Nürnberg a lead that Mijat Gacinovic cancelled out. Russ missed the second leg, but his teammates stepped up in his absence and stayed in the top flight thanks to a close-range winner from Haris Seferovic. More importantly, Russ won his battle with cancer and was back in the Frankfurt team in February 2017.
Watch: Frankfurt secured their Bundesliga status via the play-offs in 2015/16
The only ever-presents in the Bundesliga’s history were within seconds of dropping out before a dramatic twist in this play-off tale. Karlsruhe had an away goal in the bag from the first leg, and edged the Red Shorts nearer to the precipice when Reinhold Yabo scored with 12 minutes of the second leg to go. But Marcelo Diaz’s brilliant curling free-kick in stoppage time kept the Bundesliga dinosaurs alive, and with five minutes of extra time left Nicolai Müller broke Karlsuhe’s hearts with a tap-in.
Watch: Hamburg avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2014/15
2011/12: Hertha Berlin vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-2/2-2
Fortuna’s climb back from Oberliga Nordrhein - the fifth tier of German football – was complete after this close-run victory, but it was in the balance all the way to the end. They led after winning away in the first leg, but despite Maximilian Beister’s first-minute goal at home, Hertha stayed in touch. Raffael made it 2-2 on the night with five minutes left, leaving the Old Lady needing just one more for an away goal victory but Fortuna clung on to return to the big time.
2010/11: Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bochum 1-0/1-1
Gladbach were at the foot of the Bundesliga when they appointed Lucien Fevre as coach in February 2011, and the Swiss turned their fortunes around to give them a chance of staying up when they took on Bochum. The Foals edged the home leg, but Havard Nordtveit’s own goal put Bochum back in the tie. However Marco Reus, then aged 21, struck with 18 minutes left to put Gladbach ahead again and this time they held firm to ensure they remained in the top flight.
1985/86: Fortuna Cologne vs. Borussia Dortmund 2-0/1-3/0-8
That’s right – there were three games in this long-running play-off saga. Fortuna were 3-0 up early in the second of the scheduled two legs, but Dortmund clawed their way back and made it 3-3 on aggregate in the last minute through Jürgen Wegmann’s leveller. The replay did not take place until over a month later, but on 30 June – the day after West Germany’s defeat to Argentina in the World Cup final - Dortmund ran away with proceedings, scoring seven of their eight goals in the second half.