Ninety seconds before kick-off, it was all over, surely it was. Roman Weidenfeller was still in the dressing room, holding the game up: the referee had spotted the wrong colour inside his shorts and insisted on a change of wardrobe. It was an all too familiar plight. Countless Bayern opponents have had to deal with the same problem over the years, an untimely bout of the Hose voll (full trousers) before a game in Munich. Weighed down by a sense of fear as much as the actual quality of the Bavarians, visitors would feel defeated from the outset and then act out their own nightmare.

But this time it was different, starting with the colour inside Weidenfeller's (sizeable) shorts. The layer underneath the leg attire of the Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper was not brown in this case, just not blue enough to blend with the rest of the outfit. That's the Bundesliga for you. Six substitutions and17 major interruptions for injuries will only ever result in two minutes added on but there's all the time in the world to clamp down on a minor fashion faux-pas.

As it was, Weidenfeller might have worn nothing at all in the first half. The Dortmund back four and midfield provided so much cover that the 31-year-old was all but invisible to the Bayern players. The champions dished out a masterclass in what their manager, Jürgen Klopp, loves to call the Spiel gegen den Ball (literal translation: game against the ball), the incessant closing down of opponents and space in midfield. Dortmund only started pressing once the ball was played out from Bayern's back four, but press they did: every red shirt in possession was instantly encircled by a swarm of black and yellow hornets who were not scared to sting. "They were clever enough to commit tactical fouls when necessary," said Bayern's head coach Jupp Heynckes, almost admiringly.

Sven Bender, in particular, tore up the pitch. The 22-year-old brought a whole new meaning to playing between the lines as he spent the entire game running sideways, dashing from right to left and back again to help the wide players double up on Franck Ribéry and the surprising starter Arjen Robben, back after a seven week layoff. If Chelsea's David Luiz plays as if controlled "by a 10-year old on the PlayStation", as Gary Neville opined on Sunday, Bayern found themselves bouncing off a wall of five Benders, strung up like the midfielders in table football.

As a consequence the league leaders were going nowhere, while Borussia moved "like a school of fish, changing direction without any audible orders", according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. The way even Dortmund's creative section in Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa followed the collective rhythm was reminiscent of Italian football in its golden age at the beginning of the 1990s. Here were a team of stars, happy to do 90 minutes of mentally and physically draining donkey work in order to take advantage of the one or two chances that would present themselves against similarly disciplined opponents. In total, Klopp's men clocked up 10km more than all of Bayern's players combined. (For more stats and an excellent tactical analysis, in German, check out http://spielverlagerung.de/)

The calmness and technical skills of Bastian Schweinsteiger (shoulder injury) were conspicuous by their absence, but it would belittle the brilliance with which Dortmund squeezed every inch of life out of Bayern's approach game to simply point to the 27-year-old's unavailability.

Neither side managed any significant goalmouth action before the interval. The sheer intensity and intelligence on display made this a thrilling match, nevertheless. "I think we forced Bayern to play more wayward passes than they did over the last two years," said a happy Klopp. The home side were restricted to long diagonal balls to the wings to find minute amounts of breathing space; in his only noteworthy attempt at goal, Mario Gomez slightly scuffed a shot wide of a post 10 minutes into the second half.

The visitors relied on balls over the top, too: Kagawa and Götze missed great chances before the latter smashed home the only goal of the evening. Jérôme Boateng had lost sight of the ball after a ricochet in the box; Götze did not. "A wonderful goal", said Bayern's chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Heynckes made two attacking substitutions and Bayern at last created a few clear-cut chances, but Weidenfeller was able to thwart Ribéry and Luiz Gustavo. After the final whistle the Dortmund players were dancing on the pitch in front of their ecstatic fans. "With our supporters, it feels like a home game here every time," said a beaming Kevin Grosskreutz. It was the third win against Bayern in 2011, a new Bundesliga record, and, as WAZ put it: "A win against boredom in the league".

The champions are not only back after six wins in seven league matches, they are within two points of the "imagined champions", as Borussia's chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke had called Bayern before the match.

"The title race is on again, thank Götze," wrote Bild. But Grosskreutz tried to play down the relevance of the result. "Bayern were the favourites and they are still the favourites. We are only trying to play our game."

That last point was in fact the most important lesson of the weekend. After a lengthy hangover, Dortmund are back to playing their own game, perhaps even more than that. "In terms of maturity, this was a quantum leap for us," said Klopp. Against what the manager then called "one of the best teams in Europe", his side had shown that the naivety that cost them so dearly against Marseille and Olympiakos in the Champions League was giving way to more balance and defensive know-how. "It wasn't quite heavenly football, but we defended heavenly," said Klopp. Even the absence of the injured centre-back Neven Subotic did not matter too much: his stand-in, the Brazilian defender Felipe Santana, had a flawless game.

Next stop: the Emirates. "Arsenal now know that we can make it uncomfortable for them; that's why it was such a perfect day for us," said Klopp. The weekend became even nicer still when Watzke revealed a €9.5m profit and a reduction of debt to €38m at the AGM the next day. "I promise that this team will continue to play as long as possible for us," said the 52-year-old, to much applause.

By their standards, Bayern seemed relatively unperturbed by the defeat. "It was unfortunate," said the sporting director Christian Nerlinger. "This hurts us," added Rummenigge, without looking too worried.

The muted reactions are probably best explained by a comparison to last February, when the 3-1 home defeat by Dortmund was much more crushing, in a number of respects. The match did not only kill off Bayern's remote title chances and show up a gulf in class between the teams, but it also revealed that Louis van Gaal's tactically deficient system was beyond repair. Bayern were beaten thrice.

This time round, though, they were hardly beaten at all; it felt more as if Dortmund had held them to an incongruous 0-1 draw. "This had all the hallmarks of 0-0," said Philipp Lahm about a match that had been too close to draw any far-reaching conclusions . If anything, Bayern's relaxed reaction was underpinned by a quiet confidence that Dortmund surely cannot play with either the intensity or the same tactics in the 20 remaining games, when the title will be decided. Or can they?

Talking points

• "The game is called off because of an important matter," it said on the RheinEnergieStadion video screen 30 minutes before kick-off. By then, quite a few visitors were already aware of the gravity of situation, however. Referee Babak Rafati, who was supposed to take charge of Köln v Mainz, had been found by the other three officials two hours before kick-off. The 41-year-old's condition, described as critical at first, stabilised over the course of the afternoon. He was well enough to call his father and apologise for attempting to kill himself, reported Kölner Express on Sunday. Rafati has hardly officiated in top-flight games this season after a series of poor performances and was to lose his status as a Fifa referee next year. According to the shocked German FA president Theo Zwanziger, Rafati had left notes behind but his motives are still a mystery.

• Another official, Markus Wingenbach, was at the centre of attention at Freiburg v Hertha as he missed a blatant penalty for the hosts and bizarrely chalked off Stefan Reisinger's 2-2 equaliser – apparently, he had not been ready for the preceding corner. If it wasn't for Reisinger scoring once more in the dying seconds to equalise once more and the news from Cologne, anger about Wingenbach's performance would have been much stronger. As it was, Reisinger, himself a qualified referee, said "no one makes mistakes on purpose" while Hertha defender Christian Lell went further. "It can't be that a referee needs to be afraid to do his job and is constantly harassed by players," said the former Bayer player. "I find it tragic that all is the focus on the referee after a game. He did his best out there. It's a disgrace. The guy had tears in his eyes." Lell added that the pressure on officials was "brutal" and said that "referees must not be left alone by the authorities. They are human beings at the end of the day. The Rafati story shows that this all getting out of hand."

• On a happier note, there was a first win for Hamburg coach Torsten Fink (2-0 against Hoffenheim) and surely a Bundesliga first as far as far as Dennis Diekmeier's boots were concerned: the full-back struggled with the pitch and ended up playing with one blue and one yellow-red boot. How long before the more high-profile players sign separate sponsorship deals for each peg?

• Schalke kept up momentum with a 4-0 win over sorry Nürnberg but the biggest surprise of the day once again came courtesy of third-placed Gladbach, who destroyed even sorrier Werder 5-0. Marco Reus scored a hat-trick and was predictably the talk of town – in Munich. "He's an excellent player and I know that Jupp Heynckes really likes him," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in a TV interview, coming close to admitting a deal is being lined up. Gladbach coach Lucien Favre better get used to reporters asking him to come up with the new superlatives for the 22-year-old every week. "Please stop talking about Marco, he only scored three today, the whole team played well," implored the Swiss coach, albeit without success.

Results: Kaiserslautern 0-2 Leverkusen, Bayern 0-1 Dortmund, Wolfsburg 4-1 Hannover 96, Freiburg 2-2 Hertha, Gladbach 5-0 Bremen, Schalke 4-0 Nürnberg, Köln v Mainz (postponed), Stuttgart 2-1 Augsburg, Hamburger SV 2-0 Hoffenheim.

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