Robert Lewandowski, Sven Ulreich star as Bayern Munich down Schalke
First-half goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller paved the way for a narrow 2-1 over a bright Schalke side as the champions-in-waiting maintained their 18-point lead at the top by virtue of an 12th straight win in all competitions.
A sixth consecutive Bundesliga title is a matter of weeks away, maintaining a massive 18-point advantage over "nearest challengers" Leipzig with 12 games remaining. Bayern would have to lose seven of those for any sign of a rare title race breaking out.
Schalke looked like scoring on almost every attack in the first half and veteran coach Jupp Heynckes has the flu.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Deputising for the flu-ridden Heynckes, Peter Hermann stepped in on the sidelines with another Hermann -- Gerland assisting Heynckes' trusted assistant Hermann. Confused?
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sven Ulreich, 8 -- Produced a smart reflex save after only 80 seconds to deny Breel Embolo and denied the Swiss striker again on 72 minutes with an even better stop, this time at full stretch. Ulreich is standing in famously for Bayern's first-choice Manuel Neuer.
DF Joshua Kimmich, 6 -- Turned 23 on Thursday, full of running and inventiveness down the right flank but there's still more than a few reservations over his defensive nous.
DF Jerome Boateng, 6 -- Reasonably sound but worryingly hobbled off with an injury, straight down the tunnel accompanied by a Bayern medic with 19 minutes remaining.
DF Mats Hummels, 7 -- Classy and composed for long periods but like his World Cup winning defensive partner Boateng, not without his problems handling the lively Embolo.
DF David Alaba, 6 -- Celebrated his 200th Bundesliga game, including 17 appearances on loan at Hoffenheim during Louis van Gaal's tenure. In his eight years of sterling service, he will have played hundreds of games like this in a Bayern shirt, grabbing a win having not played particularly well as a team.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Vidal left his mark on future Bayern star Leon Goretzka on numerous occasions, the same player who could replace him in the summer. He picked up a rather inevitable yellow card just before the hour mark and will be suspended for the trip to Wolfsburg. One silver lining though, this means the combative Chilean will be fresh for the Champions League game vs. Besiktas.
MF Franck Ribery, 5 -- Beavered away feverishly but there was very little end product and it was no surprise that Bayern's longest serving player was hooked on 77 minutes.
MF James Rodriguez, 6 -- Bayern's signing of the season has set a very high benchmark in recent weeks, but this was not one of his standout performances. Having picked up a yellow card on 42 minutes, the Colombian star was subbed with nine minutes to play as Hermann (like Heynckes) doesn't like to risk a red card.
MF Arjen Robben, 6 -- The Dutch master does not appear to be up to full speed since the winter break, but did provide the assist for the winning goal.
MF Thomas Muller, 8 -- Schalke's hapless keeper Ralf Fahrmann couldn't hold Muller's fierce shot and Lewandowski filled his boots. Ten minutes before the break, Muller grabbed the match-winner by making Fahrmann look silly from the cutest of angles. For the record, Bayern have never lost in 79 Bundesliga games when Muller finds the net --75 wins, 4 draws. Incidentally, it was Muller's fifth Bundesliga goal of the season -- one more than he managed the whole of last season under Carlo Ancelotti.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 8 -- Restored to the starting lineup after Sandro Wagner got the nod in the previous Bundesliga game in Mainz, Bayern's lethal top scorer grabbed the opener on six minutes, as he was in the right place at the right time to feed on Fahrmann's farcical goalkeeping. In the process, he equalled Heynckes' own record by scoring for an 11th successive home Bundesliga game -- his 19th league goal of the season in 19 starts -- as he nears a century with 96 goals in 117 appearances. He could easily have had a hat trick, going close three times in the second half, denied a certain goal by a brilliant last-ditch challenge.
DF Niklas Sule, NR-- Bayern's summer signing from Hoffenheim replaced the injured Boateng, not for the first time this season.
MF Kingsley Coman, NR -- Some late minutes in Ribery's stead but the younger Frenchman will probably start ahead of the elder statesman in the more important Champions League games ahead.
MF Javi Martinez, NR -- Replaced James as Hermann closed up shop in the final eight minutes but still had time to let loose a goalbound shot which Lewandowski diverted a cigarette paper wide.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.