Montpellier kept the heat on French league leaders Paris Saint Germain with a 1-0 win Saturday over Marseille, who suffered their first loss in two months as they failed to make it four wins on the trot.
A Souleymane Diawara header - into his own net - decided a closely fought affair just after the hour mark to lift Montpellier onto 30 points - behind PSG only on goal difference albeit having played a game more.
The Parisians, backed by Qatari cash as they compete for a first league crown since 1994, will expect to move clear once more Sunday when they host struggling Nancy at the Parc des Princes.
But Montellier, who bagged the points before a 30,000 sellout crowd to overturn a poor recent record against Marseille, are making them work to stay ahead of the pack despite the southerners losing 3-0 at home to the table-toppers from the capital in September.
Meanwhile, Saint Etienne, whose glory days were back in the 1970s with the likes of Michel Platini leading the charge, scored a 2-0 win at eight-man Nice which propelled Les Verts into the top half of the table and sent their southern hosts into the drop zone.
Nice saw their six-match unbeaten run come to an emphatic end as they had Colombian keeper David Ospina, Eric Mouloungui and Renato Civelli dismissed in a nightmare start for new coach Rene Marsiglia, just handed the job in place of Eric Roy, shunted over to the post of general manager.
The visitors thanked a penalty from former Liverpool fringe player Florent Sinama-Pongolle and a first career goal for young defender Kurt Zouma as they moved up to eighth.
In other Saturday action, Lorient saw their hopes of vaulting into the top six suffer a blow after a 2-1 loss at promoted Evian, holding their own just two points behind Marseille, who are in tenth spot 12 points adrift of PSG.
Caen failed to overtake Lorient after they were held 2-2 at bottom club Ajaccio.
Bordeaux, whom France coach Laurent Blanc led to the title three seasons ago, are still unable to find any form and went down 2-0 at Dijon, who pushed their visitors into the bottom six.
On Friday, reigning champions Lille and fellow title hopefuls Lyon lost ground - Lyon bowing 2-1 at home to Rennes while Lille drew 0-0 at Toulouse after Moussa Sow missed a penalty, those outcomes both a boon to PSG.
Lille are five points behind PSG and Lyon trail the leaders by seven points.