A thrilling finale to the Bundesliga season ultimately brought about the pain of relegation for Paderborn and Freiburg, with 2-1 defeats to fellow strugglers Stuttgart and Hannover, respectively, sealing their fate.
All of the bottom five teams in the division were battling to save themselves on the final day of the campaign, but Stuttgart and Hannover were the ones to fully escape, while Hamburg face the prospect of a relegation play-off for a second successive season.
Stuttgart, who went into the day occupying the play-off spot, looked to be departing the top flight when Marc Vucinovic gave Paderborn a fourth-minute lead, but Huub Stevens' men fought back.
Daniel Didavi levelled just after the half-hour mark and Daniel Ginczek's winner 18 minutes from time proved the decisive blow for Paderborn, while simultaneously rescuing Stuttgart.
It proved to be a devastating farewell for Freiburg’s Pavel Krmas, who scored an own goal in his final match before retirement as a 2-1 defeat by Hannover resulted in relegation.
Hiroshi Kiyotake opened the scoring early on for Hannover and Krmas then put past his own goalkeeper six minutes from time, rendering Nils Petersen's 90th minute goal futile.
Hamburg beat Schalke 2-0 to pile even more pressure on Roberto Di Matteo, but they could not hoist themselves out of the bottom three.
Ivica Olic and Slobodan Rajkovic scored their goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but the win was not enough to move them ahead of Hertha Berlin, who also finished on 35 points and clinched 15th due to their superior goal difference despite their 2-1 loss at Hoffenheim.
Hamburg's 16th-placed finish means they will face one of Darmstadt, Kaiserslautern or Karlsruher in a play-off, with things to be settled on Sunday in Germany's second tier.
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