Union Berlin twice pegged back Stuttgart in an absorbing 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Bundesliga relegation play-off.

Having missed out on automatic promotion to Paderborn on the final day of the 2. Bundesliga season, Union grabbed two away goals at the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Thursday to seize the initiative. 

Christian Gentner opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for Stuttgart, but Suleiman Abdullahi controlled a flick-on from a long ball to beat goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler and level before the interval.

Marvin Friedrich's unfortunate deflection on Mario Gomez's shot edged Stuttgart back ahead in the second half, only for the defender to make amends by powering home a header from a 68th-minute corner.

Zieler spared the hosts from defeat with a fine save to tip over Sebastian Andersson's dipping effort in the closing stages, though Stuttgart – led by interim head coach Nico Willig – have work to do in the return fixture if they are to retain their top-flight status.

A late booking for Union substitute Felix Kroos means the midfielder will be suspended for the second meeting in Berlin, which takes place next Monday.