Bender double puts Bayer Leverkusen fifth in Bundesliga
February 25, 2012 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
Bayer Leverkusen's two-goal hero Lars Bender celebrates after Saturday's win over Cologne.
- Bayer Leverkusen move up to fifth place in Bundesliga with a 2-0 win over Cologne
- Werder Bremen drop to sixth after being beaten 1-0 by Nuremberg in late match
- Three of the German league's top four teams will play on Sunday
(CNN) -- With Germany's title race set to resume in earnest on Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen took center stage in Saturday's Bundesliga action by claiming fifth place with a 2-0 win at struggling Cologne.
Midfielder Lars Bender scored both goals to give Leverkusen successive victories for the first time since August and a one-point advantage over Werder Bremen, who crashed 1-0 at Nuremberg in the late kickoff.
But it still left Leverkusen seven points adrift of Schalke, who travel to third-placed Bayern Munich on Sunday.
Champions Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, can stretch their two-point lead with victory at home to Hanover following second-placed Borussia Monchengladbach's home draw with Hamburg on Friday.
It could be a pivotal round of matches, with five points separating the top four teams.
Nuremberg climbed eight points clear of the relegation zone as Alexander Esswein's 65th-minute goal gave the visitors a second win in the last 10 meetings with the 2004 league champions.
Bremen hold a two-point advantage over Hanover in the race for the final Europa League qualification spot, with Stuttgart a further five points back despite the 4-1 win over bottom side Freiburg in which Martin Harnik scored twice.
Hoffenheim stayed behind their south-west rivals on goal difference after winning 2-1 at Wolfsburg, who dropped behind Hamburg and Mainz -- 4-0 victors over second-bottom Kaiserslautern.
Cologne are four points above the relegation playoffs after a sixth defeat in seven, while Augsberg moved out of the bottom three with a 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin thanks to two second-half goals from striker Torsten Oehrl.
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