Borussia Dortmund felt the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Shinji Kagawa rescued a 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin to prevent a first Bundesliga defeat of Peter Stoger’s reign.
Aubameyang was left out of the squad for the trip to the Olympiastadion, with sporting director Michael Zorc questioning the striker’s mentality and Andre Schurrle deputising in attack.
But Zorc described reports the Gabon international is close to joining Arsenal as “rubbish” in a pre-match interview, with no “concrete” offers having been made for Dortmund’s top scorer.
Davie Selke’s fifth Bundesliga goal of the season gave Hertha a deserved lead in the first minute of the second half, the striker prodding home Valentino Lazaro’s right-wing centre.
Dortmund lacked a cutting edge with Aubameyang missing but they salvaged a point thanks to a second-half goal from Kagawa, whose back-post header moved his side up a place to third.
Substitute Alexander Isak set Jadon Sancho up for a fine late chance to snatch all three points but the Englishman could not find the bend required to curl his shot inside the far post, leaving Dortmund with one win in their last six away league games.
Without Aubameyang, the first Dortmund chance fell to Kagawa after 13 minutes, but he could only direct his header over the crossbar from a right-wing Christian Pulisic centre.
Marvin Plattenhardt scored the winner in this fixture last season with a rocket of a free-kick and the Germany left-back went close to repeating the trick, but his 25-yard effort was just too high.
With Hertha well on top, Plattenhardt then delivered a dangerous left-wing corner that defender Niklas Stark headed narrowly wide.
Dortmund were struggling for rhythm on a boggy Berlin pitch and Sancho should have fired at goal when he found space, only for the youngster to try and fail to pick out a team-mate.
And Hertha scored the goal their first-half performance deserved within a minute of the restart.
Selke stretched to convert a fine Lazaro cross from close-range, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos caught out of position in the Dortmund penalty area and Roman Burki unable to keep the shot out, despite getting a touch on the striker’s finish.
After 55 minutes, Dortmund finally forced a save from Thomas Kraft – filling in for injured Rune Jarstein – Pulisic’s powerful drive tipped over the crossbar by the goalkeeper.
Ondrej Duda thought he had added a second goal for Hertha but the offside flag correctly denied the Slovakian, the decision proving key as Dortmund levelled after 70 minutes.
Sancho’s persistence was key as the attacking midfielder earned his first Bundesliga assist, crossing at the second attempt for an unmarked, stooping Kagawa to nod home.
Teenagers Sancho and Isak combined to devastating effect down the left wing with eight minutes remaining, but the former Manchester City trainee skewed wide with the goal at his mercy and Andriy Yarmolenko saw last-gasp penalty appeals waved away, despite heavy-handed marking inside the penalty area, ensuring the spoils were shared.