Jens Keller's first league game in charge of the Konigsblauen ended in a much-needed victory as Bayer Leverkusen overcame fourth-placed Frankfurt and Gladbach drew
Schalke and Hannover kicked off the Bundesliga for 2013 with a thrilling encounter at the Veltins Arena, which the hosts edged 5-4.
The first half was a surprisingly drab affair. Neither team was able to craft a clear opening until minutes before the break, when a poorly-defender Christan Fuchs long throw fell kindly to Jefferson Farfan, who drove a ferocious shot past Ron-Robert Zieler.
Soon after the restart, it looked as though Schalke were heading for a much-needed win when Lewis Holtby broke from midfield and squared the ball to Julain Draxler to finish smartly.
However, within minutes, Hannover were back on level terms. First, a long-distance Sergio Pinto shot took a nick off Roman Neustadter and looped over Timo Hilderbrand, before Szabolcs Huszti equalised well.
But Schalke refused to give up. First, Holtby slipped the ball to Marco Hoger, who held his nerve to lift the ball over Zieler, before Neustadter atoned for his earlier error by playing in Ciprian Marica for a rare Bundesliga goal from a tight angle.
The drama was not over there, though. Huszti ensured a nervy final 20 minutes for the hosts with another neat finish, and although Holtby's late strike made the points safe late on, there was still time for Mame Biram Diouf to score a spectacular 20-yard bicycle kick and make it 5-4.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN 3-1 FRANKFURT
Bayer Leverkusen picked up where they left off before the winter break by recording a 3-1 home victory over top-four-chasing Eintracht Frankfurt.
In a match interrupted by crowd trouble, it was the Werkself who took the initiative on the pitch. On the 31-minute mark, Frankfurt failed to clear a corner, allowing Sebastian Boenisch to charge into the box and blast the loose ball beyond Kevin Trapp.
Seconds later, Gonzalo Casto beat the offside trap, latched onto a through ball and squared it to Stefan Kiessling, who effectively ended the match with the simplest of tap-ins.
After the break, Andre Schurrle made it three with a finish from a narrow angle after a neat exchange of passes with Kiessling, but the visitors denied Leverkusen a clean sheet when Alexander Meier bent home from the edge of the box.
WOLFSBURG 2-0 STUTTGART
Wolfsburg started life under Dieter Hecking with a 2-0 win over Stuttgart at the Volkswagen Arena.
The first half ended goalless, but the hosts were ahead soon after the restart when Diego sent a rasping drive across the body of Sven Ulreich and in off the inside of the post, his fifth Bundesliga goal since returning to the club at the beginning of the season.
Going into this match, Wolfsburg had only won one league game on home soil this season, but all three points were made safe 23 minutes from time. Diego was at the heart of things once again, curling in a free kick from the left wing, and Alexander Madlung was there to head home from close range.
HOFFENHEIM 0-0 BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH
Borussia Monchengladbach will be disappointed to return from their trip to Hoffenheim with a 0-0 draw.
The first half was a typically drab affair. Roberto Firmino smashed a shot at goal from distance in the hope of opening the scoring, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was more than equal to it.
Gladbach had not risen to the challenge in the first-half, but after the break, they came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. First, Luuk de Jong failed to get a hold of an effort within the Hoffenheim box, before Roel Brouwers missed with a header from a corner.
Despite their rare clean sheet, Hoffenheim remain in the bottom three, a full eight points behind Nurnberg, who occupy 15th.
MAINZ 0-0 FREIBURG
Both Mainz and Freiburg went into the Christmas hiatus on the back of good runs of form, but cancelled each other out when they met at the Mage Solar Stadion.
Karim Guede missed an early opportunity to give the visitors the lead, firing into the side-netting when sent clear by a cunning through ball, before Oliver Baumann saved well from Nicolai Muller.
Despite the frantic start, both teams began to cancel one another out. After the break, chances were still rare. Eugen Polanksi had an effort on the hour-mark, but to no avail, before Baumann made another good save to deny Baumann.
Mainz had claims for a penalty turned down by referee Felix Zwayer with 20 minutes to spare when Paven Krmas was alleged to have fouled Andreas Ivanschitz, ensuring the stalemate.
Both teams remain in the hunt for a European place after this draw.
NURNBERG 1-1 HAMBURG
Nurnberg and Hamburg were forced to settle for a share of the spoils when they kicked off Sunday's action in Bavaria.
The hosts should have been ahead within minutes of the start through Robert Mak, who sent an effort against the woodwork, but the excitement of the opening period of the game soon died down and, barring another chance for the Slovakia international, there were not many goalscoring opportunities.
Hamburg were really struggling to craft an opening, but Artjoms Rudnevs came close with a header that sailed over the bar. Soon after, though, he managed better. Dennis Aogo swung in a cross from the left, and the Latvian was there to head it home.
The lead did not last long, however. Timo Gebhart crossed for Tomas Pekhart five minutes later, and the Czech striker equalised with his first goal since August.
Raphael Schafer soon made a hero of himself by denying Son twice more in the closing stages of the match, and both teams had to content themselves with a draw.
FORTUNA DUSSELDORF 2-3 AUGSBURG
Augsburg gave their hopes of survival a real shot in the arm by claiming an unlikely 3-2 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf at the ESPRIT Arena.
It was the Bavarians who started the stronger, but despite their dominance, they needed a defensive howler to take the lead. Fabian Giefer looked to have Daniel Baier's long punt up-field slip through his legs, and Molders was there to capitalise on the goalkeeper's mistake and tap it into the now-empty net.
Seconds before half-time, things went from bad to worse for the Ruhr outfit. Tobias Werner's ball found its way to Koo Ja-Cheol at the far post, and the South Korean doubled his side's advantage.
Dusseldorf returned from half-time with renewed vigour, only to fall further behind thanks to another goalkeeping calamity. As Giefer attempted to clear the ball, he was closed down by Molders, and it struck the fortuitous striker on his backside and bounced into the net.
With a three-goal advantage, Augsburg should have been home and dry, but Dusseldorf soon launched a comeback. First, Robbie Kruse got down the byeline and pulled it back for Stefan Reisinger, who was left with a tap in.
Reisinger further reduced the deficit in the first minute of injury time, and thought he had grabbed a miraculous equaliser seconds later, only for his third strike to be ruled out for a controversial foul in the build-up.