Hamburg jumped into sixth place in the Bundesliga after substitute Mladen Petric sealed their 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
The third-successive league win for the hosts had to be hard earned, as both sides struggled to create recognisable openings, and it came thanks to a flash of inspiration on 65 minutes.
Anis Ben-Hatira skilfully wriggled into a couple of yards of space on the right flank, and whipped a low, skidding ball across the penalty area to the far post.
It bisected the defenders and goalkeeper Oka Nikolov, who were frustrated bystanders and Petric timed his run perfectly to slide in and prod home from close range.
With talk of Matthias Sammer possibly coming in as director of sport, and striker Ruud van Nistelrooy linked with a return to Real Madrid, Hamburg's players had distractions which they had to put to the back of their minds.
Frankfurt were the only team to threaten a goal in the opening half-hour though, with Martin Fenin forcing Frank Rost to make a routine save from his low shot in the 17th minute before producing another comfortable stop from Alexander Meier's header.
Hamburg flickered to life and a headed attempt from Ben-Hatira, after a cross by Heiko Westermann, went straight at Nikolov.
The home side stepped up their performance in the second half and had openings before the goal arrived.
Eljero Elia almost broke the deadlock after 48 minutes when his close-range shot was touched wide by Nikolov, and then Van Nistelrooy tested the goalkeeper with a snap shot which the diving goalkeeper clutched.
Then came Ben-Hatira's sharp movement and cross, to which Petric, on for the start of the second half, reacted the sharpest.
Petric almost had a second goal but his left-footed strike from the left side of the penalty area went the wrong side of the right post.