Striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar marked his return after five months out with a knee injury with the opening goal in Schalke 04’s impressive 3-0 win at Hamburg on Sunday.
Holland’s ‘Hunter’ had been out since August, but needed just 34 minutes to out-jump the Hamburg defence and head home as the Royal Blues went fifth in the table.
“We dominated and we really wanted to win here”, said Huntelaar, who has now scored 10 goals in seven games against Hamburg.
“Our goal is to secure fourth place to qualify for the Champions Leage and we really enjoyed our football today.”
Schalke made sure of the three points with two further goals in just three second-half minutes as Bert van Marwijk’s Hamburg drop back into the bottom three.
Peru winger Jefferson Farfan struck the second on 53 minutes, before setting up 18-year-old Max Meyer to fire home three minutes later.
Having taken fifth place from VfL Wolfsburg, Schalke - who face Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League next month - now host Wolves this coming Saturday.
Meanwhile, Eintracht Braunschweig remain bottom of the table after playing out a goalless draw at mid-table Werder Bremen earlier on Sunday.
At the other end of the table, Bayern Munich can go 13 points clear at the top with a win in a re-arranged fixture at VfB Stuttgart on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern side extended their record unbeaten run to 42 league matches and made it a record 27 away matches without defeat with a 2-0 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday.
After their three closest challengers collected just one point between them over the weekend, a 24th German league title is now Bayern’s to lose.
Results played into Bayern’s hands as second-placed Bayer Leverkusen suffered their third straight defeat, losing 3-2 at Freiburg.
Sami Hyypia’s side were stunned as the hosts twice came from behind before midfielder Felix Klaus hit the dramatic 90th-minute winner.
The result saw Freiburg climb out of the bottom three after they cancelled out goals by Bayer midfielders Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes.
Borussia Dortmund clawed their way up to third place on goal difference over Moenchengladbach with a 2-2 draw at home to Augsburg as Lars’s twin brother Sven Bender netted for both sides.
The Dortmund midfielder gave the hosts the lead at the Westfalenstadion after just six minutes, then turned the ball into his own net on 56 minutes for Augsburg’s equaliser.
Turkey midfielder Nuri Sahin looked to have spared Bender and Borussia’s blushes with a brilliant free-kick to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes left.
But Augsburg drew level when South Korea’s Ji Dong-Won – who will play for Dortmund next season -- headed home just two minutes after coming on to leave his side ninth in the table.
The point came at a price for Dortmund though as Poland winger Jakub Blaszczykowski tore cruciate ligaments in his right knee and is expected to miss the next six months.
He is the second Dortmund star sidelined with a long-term knee injury after centre-back Neven Subotic suffered the same fate in November.
Borussia picked up their first point at home after three consecutive defeats in front of their own fans, but have taken just five points from their last seven league games.
They are now 14 points behind Bayern, while sixth-placed Wolfsburg also lost ground as they suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to near neighbours Hanover 96.
The result put a dampener on Kevin de Bruyne’s debut after the Belgium midfielder became Wolfsburg’s record signing last weekend when he moved from Chelsea.
Nuremberg celebrated a milestone as they became the last team in a major European league to pick up their first win of the season with a 4-0 victory over Hoffenheim.
Eintracht Frankfurt picked up their first home win of the season with a shock 1-0 victory against seventh-placed Hertha Berlin.
Mainz are up to eighth after a 2-1 win at Stuttgart as Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored for the visitors against his former club.