French champions Lille failed to exploit slip-ups by several of their title rivals after throwing away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at home to second-bottom Auxerre today.
With leaders Montpellier held to a 1-1 draw at Dijon and Saint-Etienne, Lyon and Marseille all losing, Lille had a huge opportunity to tighten their grip on third place. However, they dropped a 2-0 lead with just ten minutes to go and were unable to defend their advantage.
Lyon fell to their fifth defeat of the season at Nancy and now find themselves seven points behind Lille in the battle for a UEFA Champions League place, seriously compromising their chances of reaching next season's competition.
"It really feels like a waste," said Lille coach Rudi Garcia. "We're leading 2-0 and we've handled Auxerre's good moments well. And then we lack application and intelligence. We only have ourselves to blame."
Marseille, meanwhile, are now a point behind Lyon and Rennes in eighth place, although they havea game in hand on the sides above them.
Auxerre peg-back Lille
Eden Hazard had set Lille on course for victory, breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute with a low free-kick from the left that crept in at the back post and then netting a 63rd-minute penalty after he had been fouled by Willy Boly.
The hosts had seen Mauro Cetto sent off following a last-man foul on Dennis Oliech shortly after Hazard's opener, but Auxerre conceded their numerical advantage when Anthony Le Tallec saw red for a high challenge on Benoit Pedretti.
However, former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar reduced the arrears with ten minutes to play and four minutes later, Cedric Hengbart equalised with a header from a corner to leave Rudi Garcia's side ruing what might have been.
Having taken over top spot from Paris Saint-Germain last weekend, Montpellier narrowly avoided their first defeat of 2012 with a 1-1 draw at Dijon. On-loan Chelsea midfielder Gael Kakuta had put Dijon ahead in the 67th minute, but substitute Jonathan Tinhan equalised two minutes from time, claiming his first Ligue 1 goal with a header from Marco Estrada's free-kick to put his team two points clear.
Lyon suffer setback
Lyon will take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie at Cypriot side APOEL on Wednesday, but their hopes of a top three-finish in Ligue 1 are receding rapidly following their latest setback at Nancy.
Sebastien Puygrenier put Nancy ahead with a 66th-minute header from Yohan Mollo's right-wing corner, with Djamel Bakar sealing victory nine minutes later by finishing off a counter-attack with a crisp strike.
Defeated 1-0 by Brest last weekend, Marseille slumped to a second consecutive defeat after Aymen Abdennour's 66th-minute header for Toulouse condemned them to only their second home loss of the season.
Fourth-placed Saint-Etienne could not capitalise on the stasis around them either as they fell 2-0 at home to Evian, while bottom club Sochaux drew 1-1 at home to Valenciennes. And finally, in the day's late kick-off, Nice clambered out of the relegation zone on goal difference after claiming their first away win of the season with a 2-1 defeat of Bordeaux.