Sven Ulreich returned to haunt former club Stuttgart as his injury-time penalty save secured Bayern Munich a hard-fought 1-0 win over Stuttgart.
Ulreich - making his return from injury - kept out Chadrac Akolo's spot kick after the video assistant referee had awarded a foul by substitute Niklas Sule on Santiago Ascacibar in a frantic finish to the fixture.
The late miss meant a 79th-minute strike from Thomas Muller - who was sent on in the second half - settled the game after Bayern had struggled to find a way past home goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Zieler produced a string of eye-catching saves as Bayern looked in danger of failing to find the net for the first time in all competitions since a 2-0 league defeat to Hoffenheim way back on September 9.
However, super-sub Muller - introduced with 25 minutes remaining - converted Kingsley Coman's pass inside the area to secure the reigning champions a fifth straight win in December.
With nearest rivals Schalke only able to draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, plus RB Leipzig not in action until Sunday, Jupp Heynckes' runaway leaders extended their cushion at the summit to 11 points in their final match before the mid-season break.
Ulreich - who came through the ranks at Stuttgart before moving on in 2015 - proved the hero for the visitors, yet it was opposite number Zieler who was, unsurprisingly, the busier of the two goalkeepers.
The Germany international, who won the last of his six caps back in 2015, showed sharp reactions to keep out the in-form Robert Lewandowki's curling effort from the left side of the area in the 21st minute.
Zieler also came to Stuttgart's rescue when Corentin Tolisso raced clear 10 minutes before the break, stretching out his right foot to keep out the Frenchman's low attempt.
Having posed a threat going forward in the first half, the home side struggled to retain possession after the break, with Bayern stepping up the pressure in search of a breakthrough.
Yet for all their patient probing and neat passing, they struggled to create opportunities in the second half.
Both Coman and Jerome Boateng, who went for precision and power respectively, saw long-range attempts spectacularly turned away by Zieler as Bayern were forced to try their luck from distance.
Mats Hummels' hopes of marking his 29th birthday with a goal disappeared when he was replaced by Sule, though it was another replacement in Muller who finally ended Stuttgart's brave resistance.
Picked out by Coman inside the area, the forward controlled the ball with his right foot before firing home with his left, ending Zieler's hopes of keeping a clean sheet against the champions.
James Rodriguez failed to convert a one-on-one-opportunity before late drama unfolded. Sule's clumsy lunge was rightly punished by the VAR official, yet Ulriech guessed right to keep out Akolo's driven effort from 12 yards.