POOL/AFP / Federico GAMBARINI
Joshua Kimmich described his winning goal as "brutally important" after Bayern Munich took a huge step towards an eighth straight Bundesliga title on Tuesday with a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund to leave them seven points clear at the top with just six games left.
Kimmich's brilliant effort came just before half-time behind closed doors at Signal Iduna Park as hosts Dortmund missed the chance to turn up the heat on the Bavarians without the backing of their huge support.
"It was brutally important: I looked around to see if everyone understood how important it was," Kimmich said of his deft chip.
Kimmich's captain Manuel Neuer echoed the defensive midfielder's thoughts.
"That was a very important sign," said Neuer.
Bayern won 4-0 when the teams met in Munich in November and they kept up their excellent recent record against second-placed Dortmund.
"Now only Bayern can decide what happens," said frustrated Dortmund captain Mats Hummels.
"Sometimes, games are decided by brilliant moments and that was the case today."
Dortmund's star teenage striker, Erling Braut Haaland, who had scored ten goals in as many league games, failed to make an impact against Bayern's watertight defence before going off injured in the second half.
Jerome Boateng and David Alaba gave him no room, while Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in midfield made sure passes intended for him rarely met their mark. The Norway forward limped off with 20 minutes left after a heavy tackle from Boateng.
- Cleared chances -
Things might have been different, with Haaland coming close inside the first minute with an attempt that went through the legs of Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer but was kicked off the line by Boateng.
At the other end, Lukasz Piszczek cleared a Serge Gnabry shot inches from the line, while moments later Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki denied Kingsley Coman.
Bayern were in control, and Kimmich grabbed what proved to be the winner two minutes before half-time when he chipped Buerki from 20 yards.
It was the Germany international's third league goal from outside the box this season.
In an attempt to turn the game around, Dortmund coach Lucien Favre brought on midfield enforcer Emre Can at the start of the second half and added the pace of Jadon Sancho on the wing.
The home side had a shout for a penalty just before the hour mark when a Haaland shot was deflected wide by the arm of Boateng, but nothing was given.
Shortly after, Haaland limped off to be replaced by 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna.
In the dying stages, Favre brought on 2014 World Cup winner Mario Goetze, who is out of contract next month and set to leave, in the vain hope of grabbing an equaliser.
With time running out, Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski hit the post.
The league's top scorer then had a strong appeal for a late penalty waved away after a push in the area by Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji.
But the roars of celebration at the end came from the Bayern bench and echoed around the near-empty stadium.
- Leverkusen crash -
Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen dropped to fifth after being routed 4-1 at home by Wolfsburg, whose defender Marin Pongracic claimed two goals.
It was a shock defeat at home for Peter Bosz-coached Leverkusen who had won their previous 12 games.
Borussia Moenchengladbach climbed over Leverkusen into fourth with a goalless draw at second-from-bottom Werder Bremen, who are two points from safety.
Eintracht Frankfurt took a point at home in a 3-3 draw with Freiburg thanks to late goals by Timothy Chandler and Japan striker Daichi Kamada.
Third-placed RB Leipzig can draw level on points with Dortmund if they win on Wednesday at home to Hertha Berlin, who have won both games so far under new head coach Bruno Labbadia.
Leipzig will be without Danish striker Yussuf Poulsen, who is set to miss the rest of the season with injury.