Schalke's recent poor form continued as they ended 2012 with defeat at home to Freiburg, extending their winless run to six matches and increasing the pressure on under-fire coach Huub Stevens.
Despite taking the lead through Jefferson Farfan in the 20th minute, the Royal Blues fell to two goals from Jan Rosenthal and an Oliver Schmid effort as Freiburg moved above them in the end-of-year standings.
Rosenthal and Klaas Jan Huntelaar both received red cards before the game ended.
Defeat sees Schalke drop out of the top six for the first time this season, leaving them with an important DFB-Pokal tie against Mainz in midweek to put the house back in some sort of order before the winter break.
Although the Royal Blues cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners, they have lost touch at the top of the Bundesliga in recent weeks with Stevens receiving the lion's share of the blame.
With Farfan passed fit to play, though, he was able to name a strong side to face Freiburg with the Peruvian soon making an impact.
Lewis Holtby broke and squared for Farfan to put the Royal Blues in front in the 20th minute from close range.
Their lead lasted just six minutes before a fearless Freiburg levelled through Rosenthal, who met Max Kruse's cross from the left on the volley to leave Timo Hildebrand no chance.
Six minutes later, an increasingly vibrant Freiburg took the lead with Kruse again the provider, this time for Schmid, who was grateful to receive the ball after Joel Matip took a swipe at it, and he picked his spot beyond Hildebrand.
Holtby prevented Schalke from falling even further behind before the interval when he diverted Kruse's shot wide with Hildebrand beaten.
Matters became worse for Schalke on the hour mark when Rosenthal made it three with Daniel Caligiuri setting him up for another fine finish.
Hildebrand prevented a fourth with a good save to deny Caligiuri five minutes later as the crowd began to make their discontent known.
Freiburg lost Rosenthal to two yellow cards in the space of two minutes, and he was swiftly followed down the tunnel by Huntelaar, who also saw a second yellow.
In a way, the Dutchman was fortunate to leave the field prematurely as he at least was saved from the deafening boos which met the final whistle in the Arena AufSchalke.