A superb second-half direct free-kick from midfielder Selim Teber cancelled out a first-half strike from Schalke's Gerald Asamoah to put Hoffenheim back on top in their first season in Germany's top flight.
But tempers boiled over as Schalke had both midfielder Jermaine Jones and Orlando Engelaar sent off in the second half.
The single point was enough for Hoffenheim to take over from Bayern Munich as league leaders and having only been promoted last year, the home side enter the winter break as leaders.
The match was a bad-tempered affair and Germany midfielder Jones picked up an early yellow card after just 23 minutes when he body checked Nigeria striker Chinedu Obasi.
Hoffenheim's defence then had only themselves to blame when Schalke striker Halil Altintop slid a pass through to Asamoah and the ex-Germany forward smashed his shot past goalkeeper Daniel Haas on 40 minutes.
The home side squandered a string of chances to equalise, but the game degenerated after the break with a flurry of yellow cards.
Trouble started in earnest when Schalke's Brazilian midfielder Rafinha bundled Hoffeneim's Sejad Salihovic over the sidelines and picked up a yellow card on 52 minutes.
Just four minutes later both Asamoah and midfielder Selim Teber both picked up yellows after a tussel which sucked in the majority of both sides.
Jones then allowed his suspect temper to get the better of him when he hacked down Hoffenheim substitute Luiz Gustavo Dias on 59 minutes and was shown his second yellow card and the automatic red.
Jones was so incensed he had to be restrained by Schalke coaches as he remonstrated with the Hoffenheim bench on his way to the dressing room and left his side a man down with 30 minutes left.
Hoffenheim then got the deserved equaliser when Teber curled in a superb free kick on 71 minutes.
Schalke lost another man when Engelaar was shown his second yellow on 80 minutes for yet another heavy challenge.
The result means Hoffenhein ended Bayern's temporary reign as league leaders after they drew 2-2 at Stuttgart when midfielder Sami Khedira hit an injury-time equaliser to seal the draw for the home side.
Second-half goals by Bayern's Tim Borowski and Luca Toni had cancelled out Khedira's header at the end of the first-half, until the 21-year-old hit his second of the game with virtually the last kick of the match.
Bayern were reduced to ten men when defender Massimo Oddo was shown a straight red for kicking midfielder Christian Traesch in the head with five minutes left.
Third-placed Hertha Berlin kept the pressure on the leaders with a 4-0 win over Karlsruhe at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
Hamburg are fourth after their 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt as Croatia triker Mladen Petric sealed victory with a second-half header.
Bayer Leverkusen are fifth after they were held 1-1 at home by struggling Energie Cottbus.
Werder Bremen are up to eighth after a 2-1 win over VfL Wolfsburg as an own goal from Wolfsburg's Brazilian midfielder Josue gave the hosts three points.
On Friday night, Borussia Dortmund moved up to sixth in the league after their 2-1 win over the league's bottom side Borussia Moenchengladbach.