Stuttgart picks up three crucial points against Schalke

Stuttgart picked up a vital three points in their battle against relegation thanks to a 3-1 win over Schalke.

Stuttgart's Gotoku Sakai is congratulated by Ibrahima Traore after topping Schalke.

Adam Pretty / Bongarts

Stuttgart picked up a vital three points in their battle against relegation thanks to a 3-1 win over Schalke.

Two goals from Martin Harnik and Cacau's first goal of the season saw Huub Stevens' side move four points clear of the bottom three with three games of the season remaining.

Adam Szalai scored one and had a further goal ruled out as Schalke slipped up, but remained in third place with a four-point advantage over Bayer Leverkusen in the battle for a place in the group stage of the Champions League next season.

Defeats for Hamburg and Nurnberg this weekend gave Stuttgart an opportunity to detach themselves from the danger zone with a win, and they set about the task straight away.

In front of a full house at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, the Swabians rose to the occasion, taking the lead midway through the first half when Harnik rose to meet Daniel Didavi's free-kick.

The tireless Ibrahima Traore created several chances from the left wing, the best of which was scuppered in the 37th minute by Cacau with the goal gaping.

A minute later, Didavi's free-kick was pushed wide by Fahrmann as Stuttgart searched for a second.

They found it in the 54th minute when Traore's cross, this time from the right, was met by the former Germany international Cacau, who headed his first goal since September 2012.

Harnik made it three five minutes later, turning in Gotoku Sakai's pull-back, much to the joy and largely the relief of the home fans.

Szalai pulled a goal back for the Royal Blues in the 69th minute when he converted Leon Goretzka's cross, and Schalke almost made things interesting when Kevin-Prince Boateng's header was saved well by Ulreich.

From the corner, Szalai turned the ball in at the near post, but the linesman's flag was raised, indicating that the ball had curled out of play on its way into the middle.

The scare was enough to convince Stuttgart that the game was not over, and they started to attack once again, Cacau going close to adding a fourth.

They did not need it, however, as enough damage had been done to Schalke, and to Hamburg, Nurnberg and Braunschweig in the battle to avoid relegation.

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