The Dortmund captain struck in style just before the hour mark to move Jurgen Klopp's side four points clear of third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, which could only draw at Hannover on Saturday.
Kehl instinctively shot after Kevin Grosskreutz fed the ball into his path, with the 25-yard effort curling over Freiburg goalkeeper Oliver Baumann and into the back of the net.
The midfielder's first goal in any competition since April 2012 secured the three points for the visitors, but they were made to work hard by the relegation-threatened hosts.
Christian Streich's side felt Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos should have been sent off for bringing down the impressive Philipp Zulechner on the stroke of halftime.
And Freiburg was made to rue its misfortune as it remained in the bottom two of the Bundesliga.
Hampered by the absence of Robert Lewandowski (knee) and Marco Reus (foot), Dortmund started slowly, with a weak Nuri Sahin free kick all it could muster in the early stages.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired wide after a neat team move but Freiburg was well organized at the back, frustrating its opponents, which had won the last seven meetings between the two sides.
Zulechner, making his first start since arriving from Austrian side Grodig last month, shot over after a corner was not properly cleared, but the home fans were the liveliest aspect of a tame first 30 minutes.
Mats Hummels' well-weighted long ball could have caused Freiburg problems but Baumann was quick to react before the first half's major talking point angered the hosts.
Zulechner, who was sent through on goal, was hauled down by Sokratis in the 43rd minute, but the Greece defender – who was the last man – was only given a yellow card.
Dortmund capitalized on its good fortune with a promising start to the second half as Julian Schieber, deputizing for top scorer Lewandowski up front, shot into the side netting.
Schieber then agonizingly missed a teasing ball across the face of goal from Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 54th minute, but the visitors soon had the lead with Kehl's piece of brilliance leaving Baumann with no chance.
Freiburg battled for an equalizer and regularly got into good positions, with Ahmed Mehmedi a constant threat.
Dortmund nearly scored again, with substitute Jonas Hofmann blazing over from close range after Aubameyang's cut-back in the dying stages, but one goal was enough as Klopp's charges continued their excellent record against Freiburg.
- Sports & Recreation
- Oliver Baumann
- Jurgen Klopp
- Robert Lewandowski