BERLIN: Bayern Munich leaked a late equaliser in Saturday's 1-1 home draw to Freiburg to leave them four points adrift of Borussia Dortmund before next weekend's Bundesliga showdown.
Having laboured to a 2-1 win at fourth-tier part-timers Roedinghausen in the German Cup on Tuesday, Bayern struggled again at the Allianz Arena - exactly a week before they face leaders Dortmund away in a top-of-the-table clash.
"It's been weeks now that we've not been showing our best football, and when this happens, things don't come as easily as usual," admitted Bayern captain Manuel Neuer.
This was the first time Freiburg have left Munich with a point since 1997.
Bayern's star-studded attack needed 80 minutes to break the deadlock when Serge Gnabry dribbled through the defence and struck his shot low into the bottom right-hand corner.
However, Freiburg showed heart when Lucas Hoeler got in between Bayern's burly centre-backs Niklas Suele and Jerome Boateng to equalise on 89 minutes and leave Munich head coach Niko Kovac shaking his head in frustration.
"Things would have been much easier if 'Lewy' (Robert Lewandowski) had put his chance away," said Kovac after Lewandowski wasted several chances.
"The second half was hectic, we're disappointed."
There could be more bad news coming for Kovac as Borussia Moenchengladbach can leap-frog Bayern into second by beating strugglers Fortuna Duesseldorf at home on Sunday.
Dortmund restored their four-point lead over Bayern with a 1-0 win at Wolfsburg as club captain Marco Reus headed their first-half winner.
Injuries to Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer meant Dortmund had to reshuffle their defence and struggled to finish their chances.
England winger Jadon Sancho, 18, who has already set up six league goals this season, fired in another superb cross from the left wing which Thomas Delaney headed back towards Reus, who steered the ball inside the post with his head on 28 minutes.
It was Dortmund's 30th goal in just their 10th league game, but was a far from polished performance from the leaders.
Dortmund striker Paco Alcacer, in his first game back after injury, failed to add to his tally after scoring seven goals in his first four Bundesliga games.
Nelson shines in rout
After two huge wins on the road, Bayer Leverkusen, who thrashed Werder Bremen 6-2 last Sunday and hammered Borussia Moenchengladbach 5-0 in the German Cup in mid-week, crashed to a 4-1 defeat at home to Hoffenheim, whose Brazilian striker Joelinton scored twice.
English teenager Reiss Nelson, on loan from Arsenal, was again lethal on the right wing as the 18-year-old claimed his fifth goal in just six Bundesliga games, this time from the edge of the area on 19 minutes.
Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi sent Germany head coach Joachim Loew,a reminder of his talent with the equaliser, fired home from a tight angle with half an hour gone. Loew names his squad for the upcoming games against Russia and the Netherlands next week.
However, the scores were level for just four minutes.
Joelinton headed Hoffenheim back into the lead and then won a penalty, converted by Italian midfielder Vincenzo Grifo on 49 minutes to make it 3-1.
Joelinton capped the rout 17 minutes from time by firing home Grifo's final pass to keep the pressure on Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich.
Elsewhere, Schalke warmed up for Tuesday's Champions League clash at home to Galatasaray with a 3-1 win over Hanover thanks to goals by Nabil Bentelab, Mark Uth and Breel Embolo.
Uth, who had a clear penalty appeal turned down earlier, won the spit-kick which which Bentaleb converted just after the break, then fired home one of his own on 85 minutes for his first Schalke goal since his summer signing from Hoffenheim.
It finished 2-2 in the Bavarian derby at mid-table Augsburg as strugglers Nuremberg earned a point away from home.