The visitors found themselves at the foot of the table following Stuttgart’s 3-1 win at Bochum earlier on Sunday, but they could have opened the scoring in the opening moments through leading marksman Marius Bulter, before Christoph Baumgartner headed over unmarked at the other end in what was a frantic start.
An utterly horrendous run of just two points in 14 games had Hoffenheim mired in the bottom two last month, but back-to-back triumphs over Werder Bremen and fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin had hoisted them back up to 15th prior to this encounter.
And the hosts got their noses in front when Alex Král put through his own net on 22 minutes.
Angelino fed Baumgartner, who flicked a beautiful pass around the corner for the RB Leipzig loanee to guide the ball across goal, with Kral unluckily diverting past Ralf Fahrmann.
Schalke initially responded well to that setback and could have equalised from the unlikely source of Maya Yoshida after his flicked header struck Oliver Baumann’s left-hand post.
However, Hoffenheim quickly wrestled back control as Andrej Kramaric twice failed to pull the trigger when in inviting positions and Baumgartner remained in the thick of the action.
Thomas Reis was getting concerned by the amount of joy Die Kraichgauer were having down their right, opting to take Thomas Ouwejan off for Mehmet Aydın on 36 minutes to cut short the Dutchman’s first start since October.
At the break, Reis’ opposite number Pellegrino Matarazzo also decided to make a defensive change, with former Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak replacing Kevin Vogt and heading over shortly after his introduction.
Midway through the second period, Ihlas Bebou had the opportunity to double his side’s lead from the spot after Baumgartner was upended by Yoshida, and although the Togo international’s first penalty was saved by Fahrmann, he slotted home the retake after the goalkeeper was punished for straying off his line.
Teenage midfielder Tom Bischof then wasted his chance to bag his first-ever senior goal, skying his effort as Matarazzo’s men saw out the final minutes.
Hoffenheim are now five points clear of the relegation play-off place and travel to leaders Bayern Munich next Saturday, while Die Konigsblauen host Hertha the day before that.