Not even the most optimistic of Hamburg fans harboured much hope of their team accomplishing ‘mission impossible’, but they nevertheless packed their beloved Volksparkstadion to the rafters, and were offered a glimmer of inspiration inside just six minutes.
With a deafening crowd right behind him, Sonny Kittel received the ball a full 30 yards from the Swabians’ net, and his howitzer of a strike thundered in off the post, sending Hamburg’s thousands of acolytes into raptures.
It seemed as though a miracle really was on the horizon, but Stuttgart regrouped in an effort to avoid a repeat of their loss to Union Berlin in the 2019 relegation playoff and had some cause to feel unfortunate just over 10 minutes later when VAR ruled out Serhou Guirassy’s brilliant flick past Daniel Heuer Fernandes for offside.
As might be expected from a side desperate for goals, Hamburg were decidedly open in defence, but that approach nearly paid off as half time loomed, with Robert Glatzel pulling his low drive just wide before Florian Muller made the save of the half to push away Bakery Jatta’s net-bound header.
With momentum firmly in favour of the hosts, the second half promised high drama, but Stuttgart mercilessly silenced a raucous Volksparkstadion and struck for a 12th successive game shortly after the break.
Tireless work from Wataru Endo resulted in Guirassy being released, and the Guinean intelligently squared to Enzo Millot, who squeezed his shot under Heuer Fernandes and extinguished any realistic chances of a miraculous turnaround.
If that wasn’t enough to see Stuttgart boss Sebastian Hoeness breathe a sigh of relief, Hamburg’s Portuguese stopper failed to clear his lines soon after, swinging at thin air and allowing Millot to tap in his second of the night.
Naturally, the Hamburg ranks were full of dejection and frustration from then on, and the match threatened to boil over at times, with Bastian Dankert not hesitating to reach for his pocket before fleeting chances for both Glatzel and Kittel went begging.
As time dripped away, an increasingly limp Hamburg were unable to cause any real kind of stir in the opposition box, and Silas’ outstanding dribble and calm finish in stoppage time brought proceedings to a close with some extra panache.
Avoiding a third relegation in seven years, Stuttgart remain in the top division at the expense of Hamburg, with the one-time European Cup winners and former Bundesliga mainstays condemned to languish in the second tier for an agonising sixth straight year.