After a gruelling season which began last summer and stretched into the next, the Bundesliga came to a dramatic close on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund did not have really anything to play for, while visitors Hoffenheim were gunning for Europa League qualification at the Signal Iduna Park. The hosts looked favourites to take all three points, but the ever-unpredictable BuLi had one last surprise in store.
Andrej Kramarić scored the first goal inside the opening 10 minutes, with a ruthless strike. It was not long before he got his second goal, just before half-time. Then his third came after the break. And then a fourth.
With 50 minutes on the clock, Borussia Dortmund were down 4-0 on home soil, all down to the deadly nature of one Croatian forward. The final whistle could not come soon enough.
Perhaps it seems like one of the shock results of the season, but if you watched Dortmund’s last few games, it comes as no surprise.
Ever since they lost to Bayern Munich in late May, something has not been the same at Dortmund. That Der Klassiker defeat saw the gap at the top extended to seven points, rather than a one-point difference that would have been a reality had the hosts won it.
That defeat not only cost BVB the title, but it changed their mentality for the worse, and how.
Despite winning the next three on the bounce, with each passing game Dortmund looked less and less like the team we have come to know and love. The 2-0 home defeat to Mainz a few weeks ago was the breaking point, rounded off by their Hoffenheim humiliation on Saturday.
Their final day defeat epitomises everything that needs to change at Borussia Dortmund, sooner rather than later. While they still finish the season in second, they do so 13 points adrift the Meisterschale, allowing Bayern to seal an eighth straight Bundesliga title.
This season looked like it could be the one, the year that Dortmund ended their eight-year title drought and finally reclaimed the German football crown. Their Super Cup triumph over Bayern last August was a promising sign, and they began the Bundesliga season top of the pile after two games.
But from then on, it turned sour.
The 3-1 shock loss to Union Berlin saw them plummet down to fifth, and they never returned to the top. Costly defeats have hindered Dortmund all season long - whether it was the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bayern in November, a 4-3 thriller in Bayer Leverkusen’s favour before the league’s suspension, or back to back home defeats to finish the season.
BVB do have quality among their ranks - a second place finish proves that. But when it comes to the big games, they still do not have that final bit of excellence to beat the best. That is proven by both of the losses to Bayern, as well as crashing out of the Champions League to French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Another season, another string of difficult questions. Is Lucien Favre really the right man to return them to their glory days? How can BVB dethrone a rampant Bayern Munich? What needs to change at the Signal Iduna Park?
Dortmund have a wealth of attacking talent, who will serve them well in the near future. Erling Haaland is just getting started, Thorgan Hazard is really hitting his stride and Jadon Sancho could become even better if the Schwarzgelben can hold onto him.
But the club needs to rebuild and strengthen defensive options, develop their midfield and really build a world-class squad. They have the talent, resources and time to do that, and it could be the case where one or two world-class signings make every difference in North Rhine-Westphalia.
This Dortmund squad has huge potential, the ability to be one of Germany and Europe’s dominant forces once again and truly become a force to be reckoned with. But the management needs to reconvene, understand their flaws and identify what went wrong this season.
The 4-0 demolition at the hands of Hoffenheim is a dreadful way to end the season, but this needs to be the motivation to be better. These hardships will drive them to work even harder, invest even more and fight greater than they ever have before.
As the season closes its curtains, this could turn out to be the defining moment of Borussia Dortmund.