Despite piling on the pressure at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, 1. FC Union Berlin went out of the German Cup after a 2-3 home defeat to Paderborn.
The Köpenick club trailed 1-3 at the break but an own goal from Uwe Hünemeier handed Union a lifeline back into the match. Sven Michel hit a double and Dennis Srbeny had sent Paderborn into an emphatic first-half lead despite Urs Fischer's side levelling through Grischa Prömel.
Steffen Baumgart's side held on at the death to progress to the last 16.
1. FC Union Berlin: Karius; Trimmel (Ryerson 78), Knoche, Friedrich, Lenz (Gießelmann 78); Andrich, Prömel; Becker (Gogia 70), Teuchert (Griesbeck 58), Endo (Bülter 58); Awoniyi
SC Paderborn: Zingerle; Dörfler (Ananou 78), Hünemeier, Schönlau, Okoroji; Schallenberg, Ingelsson, Thalhammer (Justvan 66), Srbeny (Owusu 78); Michel (Pröger 90), Führich (Antwei-Adjej 66)
The final match of the calendar year was Union's first DFB Pokal home clash in seven years. Fischer's side, which included Loris Karius and Keita Endo from the start, fell behind after just three minutes as Michel tapped home at the far post. Within two minutes, Union were back on level terms through midfielder Prömel. Sheraldo Becker forced the issue with a dangerous cross, which was cleared by Hünemeier straight into Prömel's path and the 25-year-old fired past Leopold Zingerle. Japanese winger Endo was handed the nod on the left-hand side as he looks to find form following a period of injury. Endo sparked a great move from Union in the 20th minute, tenaciously winning the ball back in midfield. Cedric Teuchert took the ball into his path at the corner of the area but lost his balance and shot over the crossbar. A 10-minute or spell in the first half was the most dominant period from Fischer until the interval. Christopher Lenz and Endo set up two opportunities for Taiwo Awoniyi to build on his scoring run of the last week, but the Nigerian was unable to get the edge over the Paderborn defence. On 30 minutes, a well-worked corner-kick turned into the second goal for Paderborn – Svante Ingelsson struck on target but Karius' save fell as far as Srbeny who finished off from a few yards out. Six minutes later, Union were caught flat-footed and a blistering Paderborn counter-attack was finished off by Michel to make it 1-3.
Fischer stuck with the chosen XI for the second 45 minutes and afforded his team time to re-gain control of the clash. They did so within 13 minutes when Lenz's cross was deflected into the net by former Brighton defender and captain Hünemeier. Before the restart of action, Fischer turned the screw, introducing Sebastian Griesbeck and Marius Bülter for Teuchert and Endo. Griesbeck's introduction strengthened the midfield base for Union to control the game and take away the risk factor of another Paderborn counter. Akaki Gogia replaced Becker with 20 minutes to go as the attacks headed in one direction. On 71 minutes, Bülter picked out Prömel at the edge of the penalty box and the midfielder cannoned a 20-yard shot off the crossbar. Two minutes later, Prömel was denied again by Leo Zingerle. After Fischer gave minutes to Julian Ryerson and Niko Gießelmann, the returning Robert Andrich almost clinched the equaliser but his goalbound shot from 25 yards struck Hünemeier at the edge of the six-yard-box. In the fourth minute of additional time, Union came agonisingly close to taking the game beyond 90 minutes. Bülter twisted-and-turned away from Chima Okoroji and set up Awoniyi but the shot wickedly came off the inside of the post to the relief of the 2.Bundesliga side. Union Berlin's first defeat since the opening week of the Bundesliga campaign brings an end to the DFB Pokal campaign, but Fischer's side will quickly turn their attentions after the Christmas period to the January 2 league match away to Werder Bremen.