Despite taking the lead against table-topping RB Leipzig, 1. FC Heidenheim couldn't hold on and slipped to a 3-1 defeat at the Red Bull Arena.
Robert Leipertz's superb strike gave the visitors the lead against the run of play, but Dominik Kaiser and Yussuf Poulsen's double salvo turned the game around.
Marvin Compper added a third with an excellent header to maintain their six-point lead over SC Freiburg.
Heidenheim made plenty of changes coming into the game, as Frank Schmidt tried to rotate his squad. Kevin Müller, Norman Theuerkauf, Julius Reinhardt and Ben Halloran started the game, while Jan Zimmermann, Marc Schnatterer, Bard Finne (all benched) and Sebastian Griesbeck (suspended) dropped out.
As for Leipzig, Ralf Rangnick kept things simple. Marcel Halstenberg and Rani Khedira dropped to the bench to recuperate, which handed Anthony Jung and Stefan Ilsanker the chance to impress from the start.
Leipertz leaves Leipzig stunned
Much like a boxing match, the opening 10 minutes resembled the first few rounds of a fight - neither side were keen to commit fully and, as a result, there were a real lack of chances. The Bulls were trying to thread through Yussuf Poulsen on goal, but couldn't quite find the perfect pass to do so.
Leipzig continued to pile on the pressure, though they would find themselves behind to an effective counter attack. Denis Thomalla, who struggled for a chance in the hosts' side, burst down the right for Heidenheim and did well to wait on support to come. That arrived in the shape of Robert Leipertz, who rifled a 20-yard drive into the top corner.
After that, Heidenheim were forced back into their shell. Emil Forsberg fired over a good chance from inside the area, but not before he had a free-kick saved by Müller. Leipzig then had a penalty claim turned down by Sören Storks; the ball struck Robert Strauß' hand, but he has too close to the play to know anything about it.
High hopes heading into second half are dashed
Despite starting and ending the half on the back foot, Heidenheim had a lead and were seemingly set to reignite the 2. Bundesliga title race. The half-time break brought change from Rangnick, as he took off Ilsanker to bring on Massimo Bruno to spark the attack into life.
The change had very little effect on the game and the hosts continued to find the Heidenheim back-line in inspired form. It was clear something major would be needed to get back level, but it came in an incredibly cruel fashion. After Lukas Klostermann came inside and shifted the ball to Dominik Kaiser, the captain's deflected shot caught Timo Beermann's stomach and left Müller wrong-footed.
After that, it went from bad to worse for the visitors. Klostermann was involved once more, firing the ball into Forsberg's feet. The midfielder then produced a touch of true class to spin a pass round the corner in a swift flick of the feet, finding Poulsen in the process. The Danish forward touched past Beermann and slotted home, as he wheeled away to celebrate in front of the home fans.
Heidenheim were finding it difficult to gain any sort of foothold and, apart from a few crosses, offered little to nothing in the second half. Marvin Compper and Halstenberg had further chances to add to their lead, Marcel Sabitzer also had a chance to confirm the three points late on but was met by some sturdy defensive action.
From the resulting corner, however, Leipzig did get their third. Kaiser's corner was inch-perfect for Compper, and he wouldn't miss for the second time. A wonderful header from 10 yards looped up and over the helpless Müller, which ensured the hosts' six point lead at the top would remain in tact. Heidenheim can hold their heads high after a battling performance, though the second goal in the game was always going to be the deciding factor.