Marseille's hopes of participation in next season's UEFA Champions League suffered a crushing blow following a fourth consecutive league defeat, 1-0 away to Ajaccio. Didier Deschamps took his misfiring side, who are pointless from their last three league outings, to Corsica hoping to kickstart a final charge towards the top places in the French league.
Injured duo Mathieu Valbuena and Loic Remy, who were missing from the squad for the defeat to Evian, returned to the fray. But at the end of a desperate match in which both sides mostly failed to convert the few chances they had created, Ajaccio snatched the win when Benjamin Andre left Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda clawing at thin air in the 88th minute.
Deschamps said: "We haven't won, and we're not even capable of holding on to a 0-0 two minutes from the finish. That's four defeats now and it's becoming tricky but we're going to keep fighting for that top three place. It will be hard, but we believe in ourselves."
Marseille started this game eight points outside the Champions League places in eighth place with 12 games of the season remaining. They now risk dropping to ninth if Bordeaux overcome Brest in Brittany tomorrow. Ajaccio's seventh win of the season lifted the Corsicans up five places to 13th ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures.
All eyes, however, will be on Marseille. Despite facing Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next week, where they defend a 1-0 lead, their chances of appearing at Europe's top table after next summer look slim.
Marseille started the match in positive fashion, dominating play and giving Ajaccio few glimpses of the ball in the opening half. Despite the urgency for a win, however, their best chance of a match in which they did not hit a shot on target until the 42nd minute did not come until six minutes from regulation time.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Marseille's Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off a superb reflex save to keep out Jordan Ayew's goal-bound effort following a superb centre from Brandao. Moments later Andre latched onto Johann Cavalli's probing pass to beat Mandanda with a first-time shot which, come May, could count as one of the most significant goals the team has scored this season.
Ajaccio coach Olivier Pantaloni said: "Marseille dominated this match, there's no doubt. But when you count the number of chances I think we were in front. I have to say well done to the players who all produced a terrific match."