Nurnberg denied Hamburg a place in the top six thanks to a Tomas Pekhart equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Frankenstadion.
Hamburg were rewarded for raising their game in the second half when Arjoms Rudnevs' goal gave them the lead, but it was not enough for Thorsten Fink's side to take all three points in Bavaria.
Pekhart's goal earned Michael Wiesinger a point on his debut as Nurnberg coach, and it maintained the eight-point advantage Nurnberg had over 16th-placed Hoffenheim coming into the weekend's fixtures.
Hamburg's hopes received an early blow when Michael Mancienne landed awkwardly on his ankle and had to be replaced by Jeffrey Bruma in the 15th minute.
Bruma came in cold, but was fortunate that Nurnberg only started testing the Hamburg defence towards the end of the first half.
And they had chances to take the lead too.
Hanno Balitsch beat Bruma in the air in the 37th minute, but sent his header over the crossbar.
Balitsch then set up Robert Mak two minutes before the interval, but after doing the hard work in racing away from Marcell Jansen, he missed the target with his shot.
Hamburg started the second half better and started to ask a few questions of their own going forward.
Javier Pinola almost headed into his own goal, but the post came to the Nurnberg full-back's rescue in the 66th minute, four minutes before Fink's men took the lead.
Dennis Aogo was the provider with a cross which was headed in by Rudnevs at the far post, beating the pint-sized Pinola in the air.
Nurnberg responded well and levelled five minutes later through Pekhart, who volleyed the ball in from close range as he met Timo Gebhart's pull-back.
The Bavarians then opted to shut up shop and defend a point, which they only just managed with Heung-Min Son hitting the post with the last effort of the game.