Borussia Moenchengladbach took a step closer to the Champions League on Sunday with a 3-0 home win over Cologne, who are heading towards a German league relegation play-off.
Goals by Venezuela striker Juan Arango, attacking midfielder Marco Reus and defender Tony Jantschke gave Gladbach their first Bundesliga win in six games, while Cologne suffered their fifth defeat in six league games.
With only three matches left, Gladbach remain fourth, seven points clear of fifth-placed VfB Stuttgart, and they will be able to book a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds if they hold their place.
They are just a point behind Schalke and third place in the Bundesliga means an automatic Champions League berth.
In contrast, defeat leaves Cologne 16th and heading for a relegation play-off at the end of the season against the team that finish third in Germany's second division.
Cologne replaced Norwegian coach Stale Solbakken with Frank Schaefer on Thursday, but the 48-year-old has his work cut out, with Cologne at home to resurgent Stuttgart -- unbeaten in their last nine games -- next weekend.
Freiburg, who have pulled themselves clear of relegation danger, follow at the end of the month, before Cologne finish their season at home to Bavarian giants Bayern Munich on May 5.
Both Gladbach and Cologne are set to lose their star players at the end of the season, with Reus set to leave Gladach for defending champions Borussia Dortmund and Cologne's Germany star Lukas Podolski tipped to join Arsenal.
Dortmund can cement their place as German league champions on Saturday if they beat Gladbach at home, after a 2-1 victory at Schalke left them eight points clear at the top of the table.
With second-placed Bayern being held to a goalless draw at home to Mainz on Saturday night, the Bavarians now have only a wafer-thin chance of denying Dortmund a second consecutive title.
"It feels good, but no, nothing has been decided yet," insisted Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, whose team set a new Bundesliga record of 25 games without defeat in a single season.
Bayern host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday and coach Jupp Heynckes paid the price for resting several stars as captain Philipp Lahm, winger Franck Ribery and striker Mario Gomez all started on the bench.
Kaiserslautern have no more than a mathematical chance of avoiding relegation after they were beaten 2-0 at home by Nuremberg, which kept them nine points from safety at the bottom of the table.
Ten-man Hertha Berlin remain second from bottom despite picking up a point in a dramatic 3-3 draw at Bayer Leverkusen, after they scored three goals in 15 second-half minutes.
Augsburg look to have escaped relegation after they poached a 2-1 win at 2009 champions Wolfsburg, which leaves them four points ahead of Cologne and the relegation places.
Hamburg, in 14th, also gave themselves a fighting chance of staying up with a 1-0 win at home to Hanover.
Stuttgart are fifth in the league and look to have secured their Europa League berth for next season after a 4-1 hammering of Werder Bremen on Friday night.