Stuttgart moves into Bundesliga driver's seat

Schalke 04's long wait for its first Bundesliga title may have to wait.

VfB Stuttgart rallied to beat VfL Bochum, 3-2, on the road on Saturday to move two points ahead of Schalke, which relinquished the Bundesliga when it lost to archrival Borussia Dortmund, 2-0, in their Ruhr derby.

Stuttgart can win the German championship for the fifth time with a victory over visiting Energie Cottbus next Saturday. Schalke must win at home against Arminia Bielefeld to have any chance of overtaking Stuttgart. Stuttgart goes into the final weekend with the edge on goal difference (59-36 to 51-31). Werder Bremen dropped out of the title race with a 2-1 loss at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Stuttgart recovered to clinch its seventh successive league victory after twice falling behind on Bochum goals by Oliver Schroeder and Marcel Maltritz.

Mario Gomez was the Stuttgart hero, coming off the bench in his first appearance since he suffered a knee injury in early March. The German national team striker scored the second equalizer in the 61st minute with his 14th goal of a wonderful season and was involved in the buildup for Brazilian Cacau's winner in the 72nd minute. Thomas Hitzlsperger scored Stuttgart's first goal.

"In the end, we earned it," said Stuttgart coach Armin Veh. "We're now going to keep our concentration and work hard for the final match. That's how we've played all season."

Just down the road in Dortmund, Schalke's history of misfortune late in the season continued as it looked to be in its match with Dortmund, which won on goals by Alexander Frei and Pole Ebi Smolarek.

"We're disappointed, obviously, and very sad," Schalke coach Mirko Slomka said. "But the season isn't over until next Saturday and we simply must win against Bielefeld."

BUNDESLIGA STANDINGS (one game to play):
1 VfB Stuttgart 67
2 Schalke 04 65
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3 Werder Bremen 63
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4 Bayern Munich 57
5 Bayer Leverkusen 48
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6 Nuremberg 45
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7 Borussia Dortmund 44
8 Hannover 44
9 Hamburg  42
10 Arminia Bielefeld  42
11 Bochum  42
12 Hertha Berlin 41
13 Energie Cottbus 41
14 Eintracht Frankfurt 40
15 Wolfsburg 37
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16 Alemannia Aachen 34
17 Mainz 34
18 Borussia Moen. 26

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