Schalke blew their chance to move to the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday as Andrej Kramaric scored on his first appearance of the season in Hoffenheim’s 2-0 victory.
David Wagner’s side would have moved above the likes of champions Bayern Munich and leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach with three points at the PreZero Arena.
Schalke’s influential young midfielders Suat Serdar and Weston McKennie, who scored the United States’ quickest ever hat-trick earlier this month, missed the match with injuries.
Croatia’s Kramaric, who was a World Cup runner-up last year, opened the scoring in the 72nd minute having missed the start of the campaign with a knee injury.
“It was a special moment after five months to play again, to take the first steps in the field and then score a goal, that’s an absolutely incredible feeling,” Kramaric told Hoffenheim’s website.
“I have to be honest, Schalke were the better team, but we still managed to win,” he added.
Togo international Ihlas Bebou made sure of the win with five minutes remaining.
Hoffenheim followed up their 2-1 victory over Bayern before the international window to go level on 11 points with Hertha Berlin in 11th place.
Kramaric’s effort came after substitute Bebou’s shot was parried poorly by the hosts’ goalkeeper Alexander Nubel.
Bebou then beat Nubel at his near-post to claim his second goal of the season.
Earlier on Sunday Cologne moved out of the relegation places with a 3-0 defeat of bottom-placed Paderborn.
Simon Terodde netted after nine minutes before Louis Schaub and Sebastiaan Bornauw helped Cologne to their first home three points of the campaign.
Paderborn remain last with only one point from their first eight games of the season.
On Saturday, leaders Moenchengladbach lost 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund, who dropped England’s Jadon Sancho for returning late from international duty, and Bayern drew 2-2 at Augsburg.