(updates with quotes, details)
BERLIN Feb 28 Hertha Berlin returned to the top of the Bundesliga with a 2-1 home win over bottom side Borussia Moenchengladbach while lacklustre Hoffenheim dropped to third after a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Hertha's Andriy Voronin struck after 28 minutes against the run of play when Cicero's sharp through ball found the Ukraine forward who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Logan Bailly for his seventh goal of the season.
A minute before halftime Patrick Ebert played a beautiful ball to Pal Dardai who doubled Hertha's lead with a low drive before the visitors pulled one back with a Michael Bradley penalty in the 69th.
The speedy Voronin, on loan from Liverpool, was a constant danger despite being a lone striker because attacking partner Marko Pantelic is still out injured.
Moenchengladbach, who were much improved in the second half, came close to equalising several times through veteran Oliver Neuville and the talented Marko Marin but stay on 16 points.
In the final minutes, Hertha could have extended their lead but Bailly, outstanding throughout, twice denied Raffael and Valeri Domovchiyski.
"For me it was no surprise that it became tight towards the end," said Hertha coach Lucien Favre. "But it was hugely important to get the three points after our defeat against Wolfsburg (last Saturday)."
Hertha, on 43 points, are two points ahead of Hoffenheim. Second-placed Hamburg SV host VfL Wolfsburg, who are fifth, on Sunday when champions Bayern Munich, in fourth, visit mid-table Werder Bremen.
DIP IN FORM
In a scrappy encounter in Dortmund, Hoffenheim, who have now gone four matches without a win, failed to impress yet again in an error-strewn performance lacking spark and inspiration.
Dortmund settled for their 12th draw in 22 league matches this season but looked the livelier side with Tamas Hajnal the provider behind forwards Mohamed Zidan and Nelson Valdez.
Even when Hoffenheim striker Chinedu Obasi came on for the struggling Boubacar Sanogo, the visitors failed to find the form that had previously taken them to the top of the Bundesliga.
"Despite being better in the second half we had far too many wrong passes to get anything out of this," said Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick.
Both teams finished with 10 men after Hoffenheim's Tobias Weis saw red for violent conduct and Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl was sent off for a second booking, both in the 77th minute.
Bayer Leverkusen suffered a setback in their race to stay in touch with the top sides, losing 1-0 at Hanover and dropping one place to sixth on 36 points.
Schalke 04 moved up to seventh with a 2-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt while VfL Bochum won their relegation battle with Energie Cottbus 3-2 after twice falling behind before Marc Pfertzel's penalty 11 minutes from time snatched the points.
(Writing by Karolos Grohmann in Athens; Editing by Sonia Oxley and Ken Ferris)