Hoffenheim claimed a vital 3-1 win against second-tier Kaiserslautern in the first leg of the Bundesliga play-off on Thursday.
Hoffenheim – who only qualified for the play-off after a remarkable 2-1 win at Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund on the last day of the regular season – started superbly in front of their home fans at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar Arena.
Brazilian Roberto Firmino fired the winners in front after just 11 minutes, converting Bosnian Sejad Salihovic’s assist.
And Firmino doubled his account just before the half-hour mark as Hoffenheim carried a two-goal advantage into the half-time break.
Kaiserslautern – who were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2012 – claimed a lifeline through Cameroon forward Mohammadou Idrissou.
Idrissou’s 18th goal of the league season was scored 13 minutes into the second half and energised the visitors.
But a substitution from Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol changed the course of the match, as Sven Schipplock bagged the sealer in the 67th minute.
Schipplock had been on the pitch for just two minutes but his strike restored Hoffenheim’s two-goal cushion, a lead they will carry into the second leg.
That fixture will be played at the Fritz-Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern on Monday.