Table tight as top four win
Lille remained a point clear of the chasing pack thanks to a 2-0 win at Nice but Paris St Germain, Rennes and Lyon all remained hot on the leaders' heels by also posting wins this evening as Ligue 1 resumed after its winter break. Gervinho and Moussa Sow were the men on target at the Stade Municipal du Ray as Lille put in an efficient display to overcome Nice, who slipped to only three points above the drop zone.
PSG kept pace with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Sochaux at the Parc des Princes. Modibo Maiga put the Montbeliard club ahead in the 14th minute but Mamadou Sakho hit back for the hosts within three minutes and Ludovic Giuly bagged what proved the winner seven minutes later.
Arles dispatched by ruthless Rennes
Rennes also maintained their title challenge with a ruthless 4-0 home win over ten-man bottom club Arles. Alexander Tettey put the home team ahead after 23 minutes and Yacine Brahimi doubled their advantage eight minutes before the interval.
Brahimi bagged a third goal ten minutes into the second half to quash any hope the basement boys harboured of getting back into the match and Yann M'Vila sealed the rout with a last-minute penalty. Arles' cause was not helped by the 70th-minute dismissal of Bakary Soro as they slipped to their 14th defeat of the season.
Lyon were also convincing winners, Bafetimbi Gomis netting twice in a 3-0 home triumph over mid-table Lorient. Gomis broke the deadlock just before half-time before adding his second to seal the win, after Kim Kallstrom's stunning volley had made it 2-0.
Also this evening, Toulouse maintained their push for European football with a 1-0 win over Nancy. Franck Tabanou scored the only goal in the first half to move the home side up to fifth in the standings - four points adrift of the top four.
Montpellier strike late turnaround
Montpellier moved up to sixth courtesy of a stunning late comeback which saw them defeat Valenciennes 2-1.VA looked to be set to pick up three points on the road when Mathieu Dossevi gave them the lead three minutes into the second half.
But Rudy Mater was sent off 12 minutes from time and the hosts wasted no time making the extra man pay, levelling through Olivier Giroud's penalty and then going ahead thanks to Abdel El Kaoutari in the 82nd minute. Montpellier themselves were reduced to ten men a minute later when Benjamin Stambouli was red-carded, but Valenciennes could not find the equaliser.
A new coach has brought new hope for second-bottom Lens and Laszlo Boloni's side tonight made a bright start in their bid to repair the damage of the first half of the season with a 2-1 home win over St Etienne.
All the drama came late at the Stade Felix Bollaert, with Les Verts going in front through Bakary Sako after 78 minutes before the home side staged a superb fightback. Sebastien Roudet fired home a penalty leveller in the 83rd minute and Issam Jemaa saw his shot deflected for the winner a minute later.
Caen climb up table
Two late goals earned ten-man Caen a much-needed 3-1 win at Brest which lifted the strugglers out of the bottom three. Benjamin Nivet had fired the visitors in front, but Thomas Heurtaux's dismissal and an equaliser from Bruno Grougi put Brest in the driving seat.
However, Caen dug deep in the last ten minutes and Youssef El Arabi's penalty and a strike from Romain Hamouma capped a remarkable display which produced their second successive win.
Auxerre were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Monaco in a result which did little to ease either side's relegation fears. Julien Quercia scored the opener for the home side before Adriano ensured a share of the spoils for the principality club midway through the second half.
Caen's win over Brest means Monaco drop into the bottom three, while Auxerre are just four points better off than their opponents.