PARIS (AFP) - Marseille overcame a resolute Nice on Saturday to claim a precious 2-1 league win, three days ahead of a potentially volatile clash with Champions League opponents Atletico Madrid.
"We deserved the win," said Marseille coach Eric Gerets whose side are now just three points behind champions Lyon who slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat at Nantes courtesy of a controversial late penalty.
"Apart from the first few minutes we dominated the first half. In the second, after (Mahamadou) Niang went off and some players tired it was a bit more difficult."
Days after one of the club's 'ultra' fans was handed a lengthy jail term for assaulting a Spanish policeman at their previous Champions League fixture in Spain, Marseille were on a mission.
Nice were unbeaten in their past eight matches, but Marseille were determined to secure the result that would appease everyone close to the club stunned by the three and a half year jail sentence handed to Santos Mirasierra.
Winless in their past four matches, Marseille began at an impressive pace and their fluid midfield had Nice chasing shadows for much of the first half.
If they play with as much passion in midweek, Marseille may get the win against Atletico that would secure them a future in this season's UEFA Cup.
It took a deflection from a Marseille free-kick in the 14th minute for the hosts to claim the opener, Olivier Echouafni turning the ball into his own net.
After dominating the first half the hosts claimed a second goal from the penalty spot.
Nice midfielder Cyril Rool was spotted pulling the shirt of Mathieu Valbuena, and after the referee pointed to the spot Mahamadou Niang stepped up to convert.
Nice emerged from the break fired up and took just three minutes to reduce the arrears, Habib Bamogo slipping past the Marseille defence to fire the ball past Steve Mandanda into the roof of the Marseille net.
The visitors were given reason for hope when Niang left the field injured just after the hour mark. Afterwards Marseille doctors said he could be out for up to six weeks with a foot fracture.
Lyon spurned a chance to further increase their lead at the top after a dramatic 2-1 defeat at Nantes.
Frederic Piquionne fired home for the seven-time champions from a close range rebound after Jerome Alonzo had spilled a Kim Kallstrom free-kick in the 43rd minute.
The Canaries levelled in the 59th minute after Ivan Klasnic slipped the ball into an empty net after Hugo Lloris pushed the ball into his path following a duel with midfielder Aurelien Capoue.
Klasnic then stepped up to score an 89th minute winner from the penalty spot after a debatable penalty decision following a duel between Nantes' Mamadou Bagayoko and Marseille's Lamine Gassanah.
Rennes are third in the table after a 1-1 draw at Caen which puts them a point beind Marseille.
Struggling Saint Etienne claimed a precious 2-0 win over Le Havre to move further away from the relegation zone.
|Bolton Wanderers 1 Brentford 1: Smith watches on as strugglers snatch point|
|Napoli 2 Inter 1: Higuain at the double as hosts go top|
|Lewandowski: Less pressure on me than Aubameyang|
|Defoe, Larsson to miss Arsenal match|
|Sassuolo 1 Fiorentina 1: Di Francesco´s side extend unbeaten home run|
|Barcelona took ´a step forward´ without Messi - Busquets|
|Unfair to blame Garcia for Roma form - Zanetti|
|Southampton v Liverpool: Returning stars have Ibe in buoyant mood|
|Lewandowski´s five-goal haul recognised for four records|
|Barcelona v Villanovense: Holders get second crack at minnows|
|Verona sack Mandorlini|
|Valencia confirm Nuno departure|
|Premier League clubs reveal agent fees|
|Stoke will not underestimate Sheffield Wednesday – Hughes|
|Robben wants Guardiola to stay at Bayern|
|Aguero allays foot injury concerns|
|Cadiz v Real Madrid: Pepe calls for hard work in Andalusia|
|Bolton confirm players have not been paid for November|
|Neville takes Valencia training following Nuno resignation|
|Mihajlovic targets Coppa Italia triumph|
|Garde confident Villa will survive|
|Everton to make late call on Barry and McCarthy|
|Davids: Messi is an anomaly but Ronaldo just an athlete|
|Simeone open to January signings following Tiago injury|
|Messi leads nominees for Puskas Award|
|Hummels defends himself after media criticism|
|Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar nominated for Ballon d´Or|
|Luis Enrique, Guardiola and Sampaoli up for World Coach of the Year|
|Chelsea about the team, not just Costa - Ivanovic|
|Kuyt open to Feyenoord extension|
|Barcelona lodge complaint over ex-Madrid duo´s Neymar comments|
|Davies wants Manchester City quarter-final to get crazy|
|Ribery ordeal is over – Rummenigge|
|Smalling: Vardy run opens door to non-League hopefuls|
|Bender relieved to end Dortmund losing streak|
|Mata: Manchester United have six finals in December|
|Vardy reveals painful road to Premier League record|
|Pardew urges Newcastle to back McClaren|
|Russian clubs banned from signing Turkish players|
|Klopp expects Coutinho to face Southampton|
|Valverde: Let´s hope Barcelona don´t sign Aduriz|
|De Bruyne relishing link-up with Silva|
|´Crazy´ Munich could convince Guardiola to stay|
|Defiant Garcia refuses to resign despite Roma slump|
|Monk confident Swansea can turn the corner|
|Bellerin: Arsenal can cope without Sanchez|
|McClaren: Newcastle not panicking|
|Klopp delighted with Sturridge, Henderson returns|
|I wouldn´t swap Lukaku for Vardy - Martinez|
|MLS Review: Timbers, Crew to meet in final|
|Nuno saddened by Valencia departure|
|Morata will become a key player - Allegri|
|Serie A Review: Juve revival continues as Roma stutter|
|Ligue 1 Review: Marseille and Monaco share thriller as Caen go second|
|Nuno resigns from Valencia post|
|Palermo 0 Juventus 3: Four Serie A wins in a row for improving champions|
|Neymar: ´MSN´ should be Ballon d´Or final three|
|Madrid must ´give everything in each match´ - Navas|
|´I take full responsibility´ - Monk|
|Neil hails Grabban display after Arsenal draw|
|Arsenal will survive ´bad spell´ - Wenger|
|Klopp proud of ´perfect´ Liverpool win|
|Bundesliga Review: Aubameyang at the double for Dortmund, Leverkusen draw with Schalke|
|Wenger: I nearly rested Sanchez|
|Ronaldo did well, insists Benitez|
|Liverpool 1 Swansea City 0: Milner spot on again as Henderson and Sturridge return|
|Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1: Sanchez, Koscielny limp off as Gunners are held|
|Bilic worried about Sakho muscle injury|
|Angers v PSG: Kurzawa wants unbeaten season|
|Tuchel relieved to see Borussia Dortmund return to winning ways|
|Pulis ´disappointed´ with free-kick decision|
|Manchester City v Hull City: Wounded Tigers must avoid ´a pasting´, warns Davies|
|Reus Deportiu v Atletico Madrid: Simeone´s side face in-form underdogs|
|West Ham needed a second goal - Bilic|
|Deila slams Stokes following Twitter outburst|
|Eibar 0 Real Madrid 2: Bale and Ronaldo on target|
|Borussia Dortmund 4 Stuttgart 1: Aubameyang double hands Kramny a losing start|
|Chelsea performance enthuses Mourinho|
|Mourinho: Costa wouldn´t use a bib to hurt me!|
|Chelsea felt like ´a small team´ to Tottenham - Pochettino|
|West Ham 1 West Brom 1: Reid own goal steals point for Pulis´ men|
|´Impossible´ to compare Icardi and Higuain - Mancini|
|Stoke City v Sheffield Wednesday: Visitors are clear underdogs, claims Carvalhal|
|´It was pretty embarrassing´ - Colback slams Newcastle|
|Pochettino lauds his Tottenham players as ´heroes´|
|Mourinho denies Diego Costa rift|
|Hazard rues ´beautiful´ Lloris save|
|Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1 Celtic 3: Champions triumph despite Stokes storm|
|Inter playing to their strengths - Sarri|
|Tottenham 0 Chelsea 0: Pochettino´s side set record unbeaten run|
|Middlesbrough v Everton: Barry aiming to bounce back|
|AC Milan v Crotone: Mihajlovic targets four wins from four before mid-season break|
|Galliani: Milan refused to sell Niang|
|Premier League loan move unlikely for Drogba|
|Fekir dreams of Barcelona move and Ballon d´Or|
|Inter will not be criticised if they win the Scudetto - Prandelli|
|Newcastle fans right to be angry - McClaren|
|Ghoulam: Napoli-Inter not decisive in Scudetto race|
|Tiago out for at least three months|
|Monk: Klopp must make Liverpool title contenders|
|Lahm praises Bayern for adapting to injuries|
|Central Coast Mariners 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 2: Visitors win fifth straight|
|Arsenal building to title challenge - Mertesacker|
|Henry: Premier League title a five-horse race|
|Olsson urges Ibrahimovic to make Premier League move|
|Niang delighted with first Serie A goals|
|Wenger backs Campbell to earn spot|
|Much more to come from Firmino - Klopp|
|Kane dreaming of Premier League title win|
|Neymar´s evolution has been startling - Dani Alves|
|Van Gaal explains Lingard, Rojo absences|
|Messi number one regardless of goals - Iniesta|
|Klopp: I´m free to sign Dortmund players|
|Mourinho: Hazard not Chelsea´s number 10|
|Mihajlovic not surprised by Niang form|
|La Liga Review: Barcelona march on; victory for Atletico Madrid|