Borussia Dortmund recovered from a two-goal deficit to salvage a draw at Hoffenheim but it left them 12 points behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich with their title hopes seemingly in tatters.
Sven Schipplock and Kevin Volland gave Markus Gisdol's men a two-goal cushion, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang crucially pulled one back before half time for Dortmund.
- Buczko: Dortmund stumble at Hoffenheim
Lukasz Piszczek's first goal of the season midway through the second half earned Dortmund a point, but with Bayern beating Hamburg a draw was not what was required by Dortmund.
The visitors, still smiling after a dramatic qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, were in celebratory mood in the 10th minute when Marco Reus had the ball in the back of the net, but an offside decision cut the joy short.
Five minutes later, Reus wasted a good chance to score a valid goal when he delayed too much and saw his shot blocked.
Hoffenheim took the lead in the 18th minute when Schipplock celebrated signing a new five-year contract with the opener, lifting the ball over Mitchell Langerak from Roberto Firmino's assist.
The hosts nearly went two up in the 25th minute when Eugen Polanski rattled the crossbar with a 20-yard effort, but they only had to wait 10 more minutes before doubling their advantage.
Firmino was again involved, playing the ball to Rudy, who in turn teed up Volland to finish into the far corner after being left unmarked.
Dortmund were down but they were not out, and a bit of luck led them back into the game just before half-time when Hoffenheim goalkeeper Jens Grahl fumbled a corner and an attempted clearance by Jannik Vestergaard cannoned back towards goal off Robert Lewandowski, Aubameyang making sure it crossed the line.
Dortmund emerged, as expected, with more hunger in the second half, and Hoffenheim spent more time defending.
Reus and Aubameyang both missed chances before, midway in, Piszczek levelled.
The Polish full-back headed first against Grahl from Nuri Sahin's cross, but he then made sure with the second bite of the cherry.
There were chances at both ends in a dramatic conclusion to the game in which both Hoffenheim and Dortmund sought victory.
Reus went within inches of scoring with a fine volley while Volland send a shot over from a good position.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan then set up Julian Schieber, but he shot wide when it seemed easier at least to hit the target, summing up Dortmund's season so far, which has been close, but just off the mark.