BERLIN, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Ludovit Reis' goal secured Hamburg a vital 1-0 away win over Hertha Berlin in their first leg of the Bundesliga's promotion/relegation playoff on Thursday.
Both Hamburg, who finished third in the second division, and Hertha, who were third from bottom of Bundesliga, started cautiously, with goalscoring opportunities at a premium in the first 30 minutes.
Hamburg controlled possession but couldn't do any damage to Hertha's well-positioned defense.
After the restart, Hertha started on the front foot but neither Suat Serdar nor substitute Stevan Jovetic was able to turn promising shots into a tangible reward.
It was the second division outfit that flabbergasted Hertha at the hour mark when Reis' cross-shot caught Hertha goalkeeper Oliver Cristensen flat-footed and found the back of the net.
Hertha lacked in penetration and couldn't cause any danger in front of Hamburg's goal, whereas the visitors from the north remained active and dangerous on fast breaks.
Hamburg even missed a chance to double their advantage in the closing stages, but Cristensen was equal to Jan Gyamerah's attempt.
With the result, Hertha Berlin will have to overturn a 1-0 deficit on the road to maintain their top-flight status. Meanwhile, Hamburg increased their chances of returning to the Bundesliga after four years of absence.
"We are looking forward to the second leg now. We will try to keep the momentum and clinch a victory. My young team was brave and had the will to win here," said Hamburg head coach Tim Walter.
"Hamburg played well, no question. It was overall an interesting clash that should have ended in a draw. We are of course all disappointed but hopefully we play better on Monday than today," said Hertha head coach Felix Magath.
Hamburg host Hertha for the second leg on Monday.