Berlin, Robert Lewandowski's hat-trick and a beauty from Corentin Tolisso helped Bayern Munich crush Cologne 4-0 on Saturday to restore their six-point Bundesliga advantage over Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern started the new year with a nine-point lead but their coronavirus decimated squad lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach but consecutive Dortmund wins, including 5-1 against Freiburg on Friday, sliced the gap.
The cruise in Cologne, however, highlights a tight title race is not yet guaranteed as Bayern pursue a record-extending 10th consecutive championship, said dpa.
Lewandowski's crisp finish from Thomas Mueller's assist opened the scoring in the ninth minute and Mueller was again involved in the 25th, playing a delightful one-two before Tolisso found the top corner to celebrate his return from a coronavirus infection.
Mark Uth's offside strike was as close as Cologne came to spoiling Neuer's own comeback from infection and Lewandowski sealed things with two more after the break.
Neuer and Tolisso were the only changes to the Bayern eleven which lost last week but Dayot Upamecano, Omar Richards, Leroy Sane and Tanguy Nianzou all returned to the squad.
Cologne were unchanged as they chased a fourth straight win, and first over Bayern since 2011, but were frequently punished for pushing up then losing the ball in midfield. They now sit eighth and out of the European spots.
Sane's introduction turned the screw as he provided a simple pass for Lewandowski's second and set up the hat-trick - the Polish striker's 23rd of the season - with a brilliant run.
Bayern have now scored in each of their last 66 Bundesliga games a record for the most consecutive matches without drawing a blank.
Lewandowski did not set an individual record but his latest haul brings him to 300 career goals in the Bundesliga - a tally bettered only by the 365 of the legendary Gerd Müller.
Hoffenheim lost 2-1 at Union Berlin, who are provisionally fourth, and will lose third place if Bayer Leverkusen win the late game at Gladbach.
Mainz beat Bochum 1-0, VfB Stuttgart's worries continued with a 2-0 home defeat to RB Leizpig and crisis clubs Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin shared a 0-0 draw.
The games took place with only a smattering of fans in stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic with exact numbers determined by regional rules.
Source: Bahrain News Agency