Leaders Bayern Munich slumped to their first home Bundesliga defeat in two years when they lost 1-0 to Werder Bremen on Saturday. French playmaker Johan Micoud hit the winner in the 13th minute for the visitors, who became the first side to beat Bayern in a league game at the Olympic stadium since Schalke 04 won 3-1 there in April 2001.
Bayern stay firmly on course for their 18th German title despite their third league defeat this season. With six matches left, the Bavarians are 11 points clear of second-placed VfB Stuttgart, who crushed strugglers Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 on Saturday.
"We could have avoided that defeat," said Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. "In the first-half we treated the game as a friendly and allowed Werder far too much space. "In the second-half we were more aggressive but we wasted the many chances we had," added Hitzfeld, who has just extended his contract through to 2005.
It was an eventful day for Bayern, whose showdown with German soccer powers over a controversial marketing deal ended earlier on Saturday when they agreed to hand over three million euros (($3.23 million).
The German Football League (DFL), which will pay 500,000 euros to charity and keep the rest, said there would be no further action against Bayern for receiving a top-up of 21.5million euros through a secret contract with the troubled KirchMedia group.
First-halfgoals from Greek striker Ioannis Amanatidis and Belarus midfielder Alexander Gleb and one after the break from Romania striker Viorel Ganea kept Stuttgart in contention for a Champions League berth and sent Leverkusen back into the relegation zone.
Last season's Bundesliga runners-up and Champions League finalists dropped one spot down to 16th in the 18-strongtable.
Third-placed champions Borussia Dortmund might have to be content with a place in the qualifying round of European club soccer's premier event after falling four points behind Stuttgart with a 1-1draw at Hamburg SV.
Argentine forward Bernardo Romeo put Hamburg in the lead on 65 minutes but Dortmund responded through Czech striker Jan Koller three minutes later and held on to the draw despite having Germany midfielder Torsten Frings sent off for a second booking in the 75thminute.
Once-great Borussia Moenchengladbach fought for a precious 2-0 victory over fellow strugglers Nuremberg that took them out of the danger area up to 14th.
Nurembergremain second from bottom above easterners Energie Cottbus, who are all but relegated.