UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists Bordeaux hit back from a goal down to beat ten-man Lille 3-1 on Sunday and re-establish their lead at the top of the French first division table.
Laurent Blanc's defending champions, who will face domestic rivals Lyon in the UEFA Champions League last eight, lead the standings on goal difference from Montpellier, who defeated Valenciennes 2-1. Lyon, meanwhile, slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Marseille who moved into fourth spot, three points behind the leaders.
Playmaker Yoann Gourcuff was beginning to establish Bordeaux's rhythm when they fell behind in the 24th minute at a sun-splashed Stade Chaban-Delmas following an error from recent France call-up Michael Ciani. The centre-back's hesitant pass was intercepted by Florent Balmont and he set Belgian teenager Eden Hazard free to fire through the legs of Cedric Carrasso for his fifth league goal of the season.
Ciani made amends five minutes before the change of ends with a crisp equalising volley after Ricardo Costa's defensive header fell to him 15 yards from goal. "We conceded a goal from a mistake, then it was all about equalising to get back into the match," said Ciani. "I'm pleased to have scored but tonight I'd preferred not to have scored and not to have let a goal in."
The game turned in the 65th minute when Costa dragged down Marouane Chamakh as he sought to capitalise on a rebound, prompting a red card for the defender and a penalty for Bordeaux. Brazilian midfielder Jussie stroked his spotkick into the bottom-left corner, with Mickael Landreau diving the other way.
Gourcuff made the game safe 10 minutes later by trumping Landreau with a low finish after striding across the penalty area. "There are nine matches left and 27 points to play for," said Lille coach Rudi Garcia, whose side host Montpellier next weekend. "Nothing is decided, even though the teams above us have picked up points. It's up to us to get back to our best against Montpellier."
Lyon stumble at Marseille
Marseille, dumped out of the UEFA Europa League in midweek, opened the scoring in the 66th minute against Lyon through Charles Kabore, but the visitors were level 12 minutes later when substitute Bafe Gomis headed in a long free-kick by Kim Kallstrom. Defender Taye Taiwo hit the winner for Marseille in the 80th minute with a 20-metre drive.
In Montpellier, Victor Hugo Montano put the hosts ahead in the fifth minute when he capitalised on a handling error from Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau to steer the ball home following an Alberto Costa free-kick.
The sides exchanged chances in an engaging first half before Joris Marveaux gave Montpellier breathing space 11 minutes into the second period when his faint touch guided Costa's floated free-kick into the net. Fahid Ben Khalfalla gave the visitors hope with a calm finish 16 minutes from time but Montpellier, promoted from Ligue 2 last term, held firm to sustain their unexpected title challenge.
Auxerre led the Ligue 1 standings overnight, after Benoit Pedretti's injury-time strike earned Jean Fernandez's side a 2-1 win over second-bottom Le Mans, but slipped to third after Sunday's early results. Rennes re-energised their push for European football with a 4-1 demolition of Toulouse, while troubled Paris Saint-Germain lost 1-0 at Nice.