Hoffenheim's revival under Julian Nagelsmann continued on Saturday with a hard-fought win over Wolfsburg.
Andrej Kramaric's goal in the third minute proved enough to earn all three points, though Oliver Baumann put in a stellar showing at the opposite end of the pitch.
Koen Casteels saved a second half Kevin Volland penalty, but Wolfsburg couldn't capitalise and lost more ground in the race for the Champions League.
The two teams made a pair of changes coming into the game, although both were in vastly contrasting form. Eduardo Vargas and Kramaric came in for the hosts after their crushing 5-1 defeat to VfB Stuttgart. The Wolves replaced Vieirinha and Julian Draxler after their victory against Gladbach, with Christian Träsch and Daniel Caligiuri earning starting berths.
Kramaric curls Hoffenheim ahead
Despite the difference in performance last time out, there was little doubt who began brightest in Sinsheim. A quick break brought the opening goal for Hoffenheim, who took full advantage of a sluggish Wolfsburg start. Kevin Volland fed Kramaric, who did brilliantly to turn his defender and keep calm to curl past the outstretched Koen Casteels.
The visitors came back and almost equalised through a strong shot from Joshua Guilavogui, as the Frenchman brought a fine save from Oliver Baumann. Max Kruse also tried his luck from a tight angle but Baumann was equal to the task once more. Hoffenheim also went close after Mark Uth drove the ball hard across the face of goal.
Wolfsburg continued to come forward at Hoffenheim, but the game was continually broken up by a series of needless fouls in the middle of the park. A late header was comfortably dealt with by Baumann, who was having another excellent game, and brought the hosts into the break with a slender lead.
Baumann produces big performance
The opening exchanges of the second half left a lot to be desired from both sides, with the niggling fouls still stopping both from playing any flowing football. Wolfsburg did go close on a few occasions, although none would trouble the busy Baumann. At the other end, Hoffenheim were offering very little.
That would change just before the hour mark, however, as Kramaric won his side a penalty. The Croat went down without contact from the sprawling Casteels, but Robert Hartmann still pointed to the spot. Justice would be served and Casteels produced a superb one-handed stop to keep out the spot-kick from Volland.
Desperate defending from Hoffenheim kept Wolfsburg at bay for large periods of the remainder of the second half, with young duo Philipp Ochs and Russell Canouse coming on and doing a fine job at the back. The Wolves had corner after corner to try and force a way back into the game, but found the hosts in staunch defensive mood.
One final chance would fall Wolfsburg's way, however. André Schürrle was the man in the right place at the right time to pick up a knock-down in the area, only to see Baumann produce his best save of the game to keep out Schürrle's strong shot and secure three vital points for the hosts. Hoffenheim now sit just three points from safety, while the gap between Wolfsburg and the Champions League places continues to grow.