Gustav Valsvik was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box, but it was right on the edge and it took a brave call from the referee to give it, whilst he also missed another handball from Gomez moments earlier.
Wolfsburg had only a few chances to extend their lead in the second half, whilst Braunschweig were left to rue a chance missed by Mirko Boland before the Wolfsburg goal.
Changes from both sides for the dreaded play-off
Wolfsburg were forced into the play-off after winning just one of their last five games of a desperately disappointing Bundesliga season. That was in contrast to their locals rivals Braunschweig, who had led the 2. Bundesliga earlier in the season before letting their momentum slip later on, although they did win four of their last five league games - the 6-0 horror defeat against Arminia Bielefeld being the notable exception.
After conceding a late winner in their final day shootout with Hamburger SV, Andries Jonker made two changes to the Wolfsburg side, albeit enforced. Sebastian Jung and Jakub Blaszczykowski were injured, so Christian Träsch and Daniel Didavi started.
Braunschweig prepared for this game with a 2-1 win over relegated Karlsruher SC, but they made four changes from the team that started that. Julius Biada, Salim Khelifi, Suleiman Abdullahi and Domi Kumbela dropped out, with Nik Omladic, Quirin Moll, Jan Hochscheidt and Onel Hernández recalled.
Gomez scores debatable penalty
With so little distance separating these two northern city sides, it was expected to be a feisty affair, and so it proved in the early stages, with tackles flying in all over the pitch and much of the early goal action coming from set pieces.
Both Luis Gustavo and Mario Gomez came close to connecting with Yunus Malli free-kicks, however Malli himself also came close with a direct one from out wide. Jasmin Fejzic was able to keep it out.
The best chance of all fell the way of the Lions though. Christoffer Nyman cut into the centre from deep on the right, eventually setting up the perfect opportunity for Mirko Boland. He got his header all wrong, and missed the target. That was their chance.
Wolfsburg took the lead after a controversial penalty award from Sascha Stegemann. He pointed to the spot after the ball hit Gustav Valsvik right on the line of the box, with the ball having brushed the arm of Gomez in the build-up as well. Braunschweig weren’t happy, but Gomez stepped up and beat Fejzic to give the Wolves the lead.
Wolfsburg push for second but contest fizzles out
Wolfsburg had all the chances to extend the lead early in the second half. Didavi had a superb chance inside the first few minutes when he was played through by Malli. He got around Fejzic, but gave himself too much of an angle to navigate and could only find the side netting.
The opportunities kept coming, with a ball from wide by Didavi getting the slightest of touches from Fejzic. Gomez had a header deflect via the back of Saulo Declari taken by the Braunschweig goalkeeper, who also saved a more straightforward header into his path from Didavi.
Having left him on the bench, Torsten Lieberknecht brought on top scorer Kumbela, yet he was unable to make an impact before being forced off just 12 minutes later with an injury. With Braunschweig offering little threat of their own, the urgency was sapped out of Wolfsburg’s own efforts.
Of the few chances that came late on, Ken Reichel had the best with a chance to score another of his specialist thumps from outside the box, however this one was sent into the path of Koen Casteels. Wolfsburg therefore take the narrowest of margins into the second leg in Braunschweig on Monday.