Schalke's Suat Serdar celebrates after scoring during their German Bundesliga match against Hannover 96 on Sunday. Photo: Peter Steffen/AP

BERLIN – Suat Serdar’s first-half goal earned Schalke a hard-fought 1-0 win in their crucial relegation showdown with fellow Bundesliga strugglers Hannover on Sunday. 

The win broke an eight-game winless run in all competitions for Schalke and saw them leapfrog Augsburg to go six points clear of the bottom three.

Hannover, meanwhile, were plunged deeper into the relegation mire and are now bottom of the table, two points adrift of Nuremberg.  

Though chances were few and far between, both goalkeepers were called into action in the first half.

Schalke keeper Alexander Nuebel denied Henrik Weydandt with a flying save, while his opposite number Michael Esser palmed away Benjamin Stambouli’s effort at the other end. 

Yet the opener, which arrived shortly before half-time, seemed to come from nowhere. Stambouli suddenly found Serdar unmarked with a cross from the right. The 21-year-old fired the ball across Esser and into the far corner. 

Hannover substitute Florent Muslija clipped the bar with a long-range effort in the second half, and striker Nicolai Mueller forced another reflex stop from Nuebel. 

But Serdar’s goal, Schalke’s first under interim coach Huub Stevens, remained the decisive moment in a scrappy game. 

Stevens, who took the reins at Schalke for a third time after Domenico Tedesco was fired earlier this month, celebrated a 100th victory in charge of the club.