Bayern Munich edged Werder Bremen 1-0 here Saturday on a late goal by defender Niklas Süle to go 4 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
The hosts were without winger James Rodriguez, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and defender Mats Hummels due to injury.
Bayern found themselves up against a rival who were content to sit back and focus on closing down spaces and neutralizing attackers Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry.
The best scoring chance of the first half came in minute 25, with a pass from Thiago Alcantara over the defense to set up Gnabry for a close-range half-volley shot that forced a remarkable save from Bremen netminder Jiri Pavlenka.
The home side cranked up the intensity after the break and Bremen began to feel the toll of their vigorous defending in the first half.
Pavlenka had more work in the 15 minutes after the re-start than in the entire first half. Twice he turned away shots by Robert Lewandowski for corners and he sent a Gnabry strike careening harmlessly off the post.
The pressure from Bayern continued to mount and Bremen were reduced to 10 men in the 58th minute, after Milos Veljkovic picked up his second yellow card of the match.
Bayern were dominant and the ball rarely left Bremen's half of the pitch, but the hosts struggled to score.
Pavlenka saved David Alaba's shot eight minutes after the hour-mark, a minute before Thomas Müller had a great scoring chance with a header. Bremen midfielder David Klaassen helped out his keeper in the 72nd minute with a goal-line stand that sent Leon Goretzka's shot wide for a corner kick.
Süle broke the deadlock for Bayern in the 75th minute, when he found the net with a shot from distance that deflected off a defender and left Pavlenka with no chance.
Bayern nearly doubled their lead in the 79th, but Lewandowski's shot from outside the area hit the cross-bar.
With 70 points from 30 matches, Bayern are assured of hanging on to first place for at least a week, as second-place Borussia Dortmund will trail the Bavarians by a point even if they win Sunday against Freiburg.
In other Bundesliga action on Saturday, Mainz topped Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-1 to assure themselves of staying up, struggling Stuttgart lost 6-0 to Augsburg and Bayer Leverkusen defeated relegation-bound Nürnberg 2-0 to keep alive their hopes of a European berth.