Douglas Costa scored a stunning winner as Bayern Munich won 1-0 at Darmstadt to seal their return to the top of the Bundesliga table.
Bayern had over 80 per cent of the first-half possession but failed to register a shot on target as the hosts held firm prior to the break.
Darmstadt’s resistance was eventually broken by Costa’s moment of brilliance, the Brazil international scoring a 30-yard beauty with 19 minutes remaining.
While Bayern failed to produce the fireworks that saw them thrash Wolfsburg 5-0 last time out, Costa’s strike proved to be decisive and gave them a fifth straight victory across all competitions.
The win puts them back above RB Leipzig on goal difference at the top of the table ahead of a crucial meeting with their surprise title rivals at the Allianz Arena in their final league game of 2016 on Wednesday.
Darmstadt, meanwhile, have now lost a club record eight straight matches in all competitions and scored just once in five league games, meaning they remain rooted to the bottom.
Sandro Sirigu had a shot blocked by Thiago Alcantara and Jan Rosenthal headed narrowly wide as Darmstadt made a decent start.
Bayern, who made four changes to their line-up, did not trouble home goalkeeper Michael Esser at all in the first half, with Mats Hummels claiming he had been fouled by Mario Vrancic before heading over from close range shortly before the break.
Esser was finally tested for the first time after 54 minutes, saving from Thomas Muller at his near post after Robert Lewandowski had created the opportunity.
Vrancic curled a free-kick just off target at the other end, but Manuel Neuer was not being tested by the strugglers.
Carlo Ancelotti needed a spark and opted to bring on Franck Ribery for Arturo Vidal in an attacking substitution.
It was Costa who made the breakthrough, though. Thiago backheeled a quick free-kick into the winger’s path and he smashed an unstoppable swerving shot in off the crossbar from long range for his third league goal of the season.
Darmstadt had a chance to draw level with a free-kick in prime position outside the area after Hummels had fouled Vrancic.
Jerome Gondorf’s set-piece was parried by Neuer, who then saved Peter Niemeyer’s follow-up.
That ensured Bayern – who brought on Joshua Kimmich to tighten things up in the latter stages – held on for victory and left Darmstadt stuck on eight points.
Key Opta stats:
– Bayern had only one corner in 90 minutes for the first time since April 2015 against Borussia Dortmund.
– For the first time in his Bundesliga career, Douglas Costa has scored in two consecutive games. Bayern have won all the seven top-flight matches in which Costa has scored.
– Robert Lewandowski had the most shots in this game (4) but could not manage to get one on target.