Fortuna Düsseldorf were unable to put pressure on their fellow relegation rivals after a 1-1 draw with FC St. Pauli.
Kerem Demirbay gave his side the lead inside five minutes with a well-taken headed finish.
Fabrice-Jean Picault continued his impressive form with a tap-in towards the latter stages of the game, but neither side could find a winning goal.
The team selections said all anyone needed to know about the teams coming into the game. Fortuna, under Friedhelm Funkel, are battling for their lives at the bottom and made five changes from their last outing to spark some sort of revival. Alexander Madlung, Lukas Schmitz, Marcel Sobottka, Christian Gartner and Joel Pohjanpalo came in for Karim Haggui, Sercan Sararer, Adam Bodzek, Oliver Fink and Nikola Djurdjic - change of team, change in performance was seemingly the strategy.
It couldn't be more different for St. Pauli. Having struggled and sniffed around the wrong end of the table last year, Ewald Lienen has transformed them into a stable and solid outfit. Several early summer signings have been made, and things are a far cry from the relegation battle during the previous season. Lienen opted for just one alteration after their win against VfL Bochum, bringing in Bernd Nehrig for Sebastian Maier.
Demirbay gives Fortuna the perfect start
Despite the form of the two sides, it was Fortuna who started the brightest and caught the visitors off guard in the opening five minutes. A quick free-kick inside the St. Pauli half found Axel Bellinghausen in space on the left, and he needed no invitation to whip the ball into a dangerous area. Bellinghausen did just that and a disorganised defence allowed Kerem Demirbay to slip under their nose and head past Robin Himmelmann to give his side an early lead.
That goal had shaken the back-line of the Hamburg-based outfit and they were struggling to cope with both Bellinghausen and Charalampos Mavrias' impressive wing play. Their attackers were slowly coming into the game with Marc Rzatkowski firing off a warning shot, though the first half of the opening period was a quiet and calm one. This mattered little to the home fans, though, who were happy with what they had seen so far.
With both wingers primarily looking to get crosses into the penalty area, Mavrias' darting run into the middle caught the visitors by surprise; it was no shock, however, to see the relieved look on their faces after he curled the resulting effort wide. Madlung came closer still just moments later, when the veteran defender flicked on Demirbary's cross. He was denied by a superb save from Himmelmann, who managed to claw it away for a corner. The remainder of the half sped by, with Fortuna ahead at the break.
Picault picks up a point for Pauli
St. Pauli kicked off the second half with a change, bringing on Kyoung-Rok Choi for Nehrig. There were plenty of shooting and crossing opportunities for both at the beginning of the half, although none were as great as Mavrias'. The Greek loanee was played in by Pohjanpalo, although Himmelmann was - once again - in the way. The visitors would soon have a chance of their own when a corner was met by Lasse Sobiech, only to see Michael Rensing match the efforts of his opposite number.
Lienen's side had come to life after the break - in comparison to the first half - and went close again when Daniel Buballa's powerful run and shot went narrowly over the bar. It was only getting more and more tense with the game incredibly open, and Sobbotka could have put the game beyond doubt when he headed off target from just a few yards out.
That miss could have proved costly at some point in the game, but St. Pauli made Fortuna pay almost immediately afterwards. A speedy break down the left saw Buballa race clear and free down the flank, before sliding a superb ball into the near post. Fabrice-Jean Picault was there and tapped home his third in two games to upset the previously buoyant mood around the ground.
Fortuna threw everything at St. Pauli to try and regain their lead, but just couldn't find the crucial third goal. The hosts moved a point further clear of 16th and 17th, though both Paderborn and 1860 Munich have a game in hand; the game against MSV Duisburg next week has taken on even more importance. For St. Pauli, a draw keeps them two ahead of Bochum and they look set to stay in fourth for the remainder of the season.