Robert Lewandowski came off the bench to extend Bayern Munich's winning run to 13 matches by scoring a last-gasp penalty to earn a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Wolfsburg.
Bayern looked set to be heading for a draw at the Volkswagen Arena after Arjen Robben had seen an earlier penalty saved, but Gian-Luca Itter showed his inexperience with a tug on the Dutchman, handing the visitors another spot-kick, which Lewandowski tucked past Koen Casteels.
It was the Poland international's 16th goal in 15 Bundesliga matches against Wolfsburg, a record which includes 12 in his last six against the Wolves, and opened up a 21-point advantage over Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig – who take on Eintracht Frankfurt on Monday – at the summit.
Bayern have not suffered defeat since going down 2-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach on November 25 but they looked in danger of losing when Wolfsburg defended stoically after Daniel Didavi's opener.
That goal was missed by a section of the home supporters who did not take their seats until after 19 minutes and 45 seconds – a reference to the year of the club's founding – over poor results, and they were unable to cling on for an impressive draw despite Casteels saving a spot-kick from Robben in the 55th minute.
The former Netherlands international made up for his failure to convert by setting up Sandro Wagner for Bayern's equaliser, and then prompting a foul from Itter which allowed Lewandowski to send Jupp Heynckes' men into Tuesday's Champions League tie with Besiktas in fine form.
Heynckes made eight changes to his starting XI with one eye on midweek, Thiago Alcantara making his first appearance since November having been sidelined with a knee injury
Sven Ulreich signed a new contract until 2021 last Sunday and was making his 200th Bundesliga appearance at the Volkswagen Arena, but it took just eight minutes for him to be beaten.
Yunus Malli swung a deep cross in from the left and Didavi towered over Juan Bernat at the back post to connect with a header that the diving Ulreich was unable to keep out, the goal scored against an eerie backdrop in the absence of Wolfsburg's ultras.
Casteels took no chances with a free-kick from Robben that threatened to sneak in, before Wolfsburg fans involved in the boycott filtered back into the stands.
Bayern dominated possession but were unable to test Casteels again before the break, with Franck Ribery receiving just a yellow card for catching Steffen in the face with his hand after referee Sascha Stegemann reviewed video footage.
Bayern had a glorious chance to level 10 minutes after the restart when Steffen fouled Tolisso in the box as the Frenchman tried to follow up an effort from Wagner, but Robben saw Casteels tipped the spot-kick onto his right-hand post.
The Dutchman remained positive and surged past Itter on the right, cutting back for Wagner to head in his second goal since joining from Hoffenheim in January.
Thomas Muller's introduction for Thiago helped breathe some life into Bayern as Wolfsburg sat back and attempted to hang on to a point, but Lewandowski denied them after replacing Wagner.
He found a gap low to Casteels' left from the spot after Itter was penalised for pulling Robben back, leaving Wolfsburg with one win in their last eight Bundesliga outings ahead of a huge clash with third-bottom Mainz on Friday.
KEY OPTA STATS
- No player has scored more goals against Wolfsburg than Lewandowski (16).
- Lewandowski scored his 137th goal for Bayern. Only six players in Bayern’s Bundesliga history have scored more.
- Jupp Heynckes' side have won 13 straight games, the longest winning run in his coaching career.
- Since 2015-16, no player has scored more headers in the Bundesliga than Sandro Wagner (11).
- Arjen Robben has missed a penalty for the first time with Bayern since the Champions League final against Chelsea FC in 2012.