Koln are all set for a jeopardy-free conclusion to the season after last week’s 2-1 win at in-form Bayer Leverkusen secured their top-flight status for another year, and they certainly let the shackles off in the first half here.
They were ahead after just eight minutes when a brilliant cross to the back post from Eric Martel picked out Davie Selke, who rose highest to head home and haunt his former employers, against whom he has now netted five times in the last seven head-to-heads.
The fact that basement side Hertha were desperate for points should have come as a warning to the hosts, and they certainly knew they were in a contest 10 minutes later when Lucas Tousart swept home from close range after Koln failed to clear their lines.
Oliver Christensen pulled off an excellent save to deny Kingsley Schindler’s header with the half-hour mark approaching, and this proved a vital intervention as shortly after, the visitors took a shock lead.
Dodi Lukebakio latched on to a long pass upfield before advancing into the area and squaring to Stevan Jovetic, who fired home to complete the turnaround.
Their joy was short-lived though, as a crazy first half swung in Koln’s favour when Timo Hubers glanced a header in from a free-kick to restore parity before Linton Maina’s cross found Ellyes Skhiri, whose shot deflected in to cap off a thrilling first stanza.
Unsurprisingly, there was something of a lull for large periods of the second half after a blockbuster opening 45 minutes.
That said, the hosts could have doubled their lead 13 minutes after the restart when Jan Thielmann exchanged passes with Maina before the former’s shot from close range was well saved by Christensen.
Koln stopper Marvin Schwabe had to be alert to preserve his team’s lead when he denied Jessic Ngankam after a rare mistake from captain Jonas Hector, and just six minutes later his team took full control.
A cross into the area from Maina picked out Hubers, who stuck a leg out and diverted the ball over the helpless Christensen for his brace.
Prior to kick-off, only one team sitting bottom of the table at this stage had avoided the drop this century, and so Hertha’s survival hopes look even less likely after this latest defeat on the road, which was compounded late on when Denis Huseinbasic’s goal rubbed salt into the wound.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Timo Hubers (Koln)