Schalke took a step toward its first Bundesliga title since 1958 on Saturday, beating Hertha Berlin 2-0 to move six points clear in the standings.
Kevin Kuranyi scored in the 64th minute and Peter Loevenkrands added another 11 minutes later as Schalke won its sixth straight. Second-placed Werder Bremen was trounced 4-1 by VfB Stuttgart.
But Schalke needed some quality saves from 19-year-old goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the first half against the fifth-place team in front of 62,000 fans at AufVeltins Arena before stepping up the pace after the break.
"We wasted two or three big chances in the first half, then they really applied the pressure," Berlin coach Falko Goetz said. "But we have the coming champions behind us now, so it will get easier. You can really tell out there they are playing for the title."
Schalke, which has two close misses at titles in recent years, was again able to rely on the most productive forward pair since the winter break.
Kuranyi dived to head in off a corner, giving the Germany forward three goals and three assists in three matches since the winter break. His through pass to Loevenkrands led to the Dane putting back his own blocked shot.
Schalke has 48 points, while Bremen has 42 and Stuttgart has 41. Bayern Munich is fourth with 34 points and even with yesterday's match against Arminia Bielefeld in hand appeared to be out of the title race.
Bremen fell victim to two early through passes behind the defenders, which set up Roberto Hilbert's score in the third minute and Mario Gomez's 12th goal in the 10th. Gomez, 21, now tops the league in scoring.
In a fast-paced match, which had 55,000 spectators at Stuttgart's Gottlieb-Daimlerstadion roaring, Ludovic Magnin scored in the 33rd minute for the hosts and Marco Streller added another in the 86th. Diego scored a consolation goal for Bremen in the 21st.
Bremen refused to write off the title, although it was also beaten 2-0 last week by Schalke.
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