Marco Reus fired red-hot Borussia Dortmund into a three-way tie at the top of the Bundesliga and declared: "We want to keep riding this wave."
The captain was restored to Dortmund's starting line-up on Sunday after sitting out the midweek Champions League win over Chelsea, taking over from Jude Bellingham who dropped to the bench and handed over the armband.
Reus hit a stunning free-kick for Dortmund's third goal in a 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin, thrilling a crowd of 81,365 at Signal Iduna Park, with Karim Adeyemi, Donyell Malen and Julian Brandt also on the scoresheet.
Bellingham came on as a second-half substitute and achieved his 50th Bundesliga victory. At 19 years and 235 days old, it made the England midfielder the youngest player to ever reach that landmark. There could be plenty more to celebrate this season for the teenager.
50 - Jude #Bellingham celebrated his 50th Bundesliga win today at the age of 19 years and 235 days - he is the youngest player in the division's history to reach this mark. Winner. #BVBBSC pic.twitter.com/lLEi2AKDkE— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) February 19, 2023
The only real negative for Dortmund was a leg muscle injury Adeyemi sustained when setting up the second goal for Malen, with the forward likely to be absent for several weeks.
Dortmund have won all eight of their games since the German season resumed after the World Cup and winter break, powering into a tie for top spot having looked out of the title race just a matter of weeks ago.
"Before the winter break, nobody expected it to be so tight at the top of the table," Reus said. "We started a run that we continued today. We want to continue riding this wave, and in the end you will see what comes of it."
Union Berlin are the surprise package in the three-team group at the summit. Opta records show this is the first time in the three-points-for-a-win era, which began in 1995-96, that three teams have been tied on points at the top after matchday 21 in the Bundesliga.
Speaking to DAZN, Reus said: "You win, but you also can't give an inch, otherwise it will be difficult. We don't play the stars from the sky, we are effective. When I scored my free-kick, I realised as soon as the ball left my foot that it could be dangerous.
"I'm happy that after a long time I was able to score a free-kick goal again."
It was a first direct free-kick goal for Reus in the Bundesliga since he scored one against Bayer Leverkusen in May 2021, which itself came after a five-year wait.
The strike came shortly after Bellingham entered the fray, with Dortmund pulling away over the closing quarter.
Maestro pic.twitter.com/2kMHtLy0QM— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 19, 2023
Union missed a chance to take the outright lead in the title race, only managing a 0-0 draw at home against bottom side Schalke earlier on Sunday.
Bayern hold top spot thanks to their superior goal difference (plus 40), with Dortmund second and Union third, but it is clear this is now a proper title scrap.
The momentum is with Dortmund, given Bayern were beaten 3-2 at Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.
A Klassiker awaits in six weeks' time, when there could be plenty at stake.
Goalscorer Brandt said: "We still have a long way to go, but it's the same for Union and Bayern. We fought our way out of our situation before the winter break extremely well. I'm most happy today for Marco Reus, who scored a wonderful goal."
Dortmund coach Edin Terzic will wait to see how Adeyemi comes through tests on his injury, but the prospects of him returning soon look minimal.
"He probably won't be available to us for the next few games," Terzic said, "but we hope that it won't be too long before he can be back."