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.
|Sounders part ways with foundation coach Schmid|
|Mane turned down Manchester United for Liverpool|
|Zidane on Pogba: Until August 31, anything can happen|
|Mkhitaryan driven by father´s death|
|Inter rejected Napoli offer for Icardi, says president|
|Clichy: City fighting fit after Guardiola pizza ban|
|Everton and Burnley win as Hull are held|
|Ajax held by PAOK after Cillessen howler|
|Conte left frustrated by ´crazy´ money in transfer market|
|Neymar makes Barcelona case to Gabriel Jesus|
|Rostov comeback twice for Champions League draw with Anderlecht.|
|Arsenal defender Mertesacker set for lengthy lay-off|
|Conte not selling ´fantastic´ Matic|
|Ibrahimovic keen on MLS and Beckham´s Miami project|
|Neymar: I play for Messi, he´s the man|
|Barcelona reveal details of Andre Gomes deal|
|Suarez bullish over Barcelona prospects|
|Ajax claim Napoli keen on Milik to replace Higuain|
|Totti labels Higuain´s Juventus move ´a disaster´|
|Juventus confirm Higuain deal|
|Pato to Villarreal ´in the final stage´|
|PSG sign Lo Celso|
|Muller: Beating Dortmund will be more fun this season|
|Juventus sign Higuain from Napoli for €90m|
|Pastore: I´m like God in Paris|
|Injured Lanzini out of Olympics|
|Allegri unperturbed by Higuain fee|
|Menezes replaces Bento at Cruzeiro|
|Sporting rejected major bids from Inter and Liverpool for Joao Mario, claims father|
|Pochettino pleased by Tottenham despite Juventus defeat|
|Eriksson: Allardyce the right man for England|
|Mourinho makes United train after stepping off plane from China|
|Hazard can still match Messi, says Pedro|
|Pjanic shows there is life at Juve, with or without Pogba|
|Juventus 2 Tottenham 1: Benatia bags win for Serie A champions|
|Dembele: I am not the Bundesliga´s next superstar|
|Lyon claim €35m Arsenal offer for Lacazette rejected|
|Donnarumma dreaming of Milan captaincy as he eyes long-term stay|
|Robson: Ibrahimovic can match Van Persie´s first year at United|
|Rooney should remain England captain - Eriksson|
|Emery wants new striker at PSG|
|Santos accept Juventus bid for Gabriel|
|Eriksson expects Sweden to try and tempt Ibrahimovic out of retirement|
|Spurs signing Janssen almost quit|
|Leicester stay best for Mahrez - Ranieri|
|Allardyce to take Mourinho cue on Rooney|
|Ings ready to outdo big-money signings|
|Henderson optimistic over Liverpool campaign|
|Allardyce hardened to the challenge of England post|
|Barcelona announce record revenues for 2015-16|
|Moyes enjoys Sunderland win as Palace beat Colchester|
|Stoke complete Allen signing|
|Roma coach Spalletti warns suitors off Manolas|
|Cresswell out for up to four months with knee injury|
|Burnley fan banned by club for racist abuse|
|Dad won´t let me play at the Olympics - Larsson Sr pulls rank|
|Kostic joins Hamburg on five-year deal|
|Tevez: I´d turn down Chelsea and Napoli to stay at Boca|
|Mayoral inspired by Benzema for Wolfsburg stint|
|Allardyce straight into competitive action with England|
|Liverpool, Sevilla fined for Europa League final incidents|
|Barcelona seal Guillemenot signing as part of new Servette deal|
|Niersbach handed one-year ban over World Cup corruption|
|Chelsea and Everton ´still interested´ as Koulibaly eyes Napoli exit|
|´Still working hard´ - Balotelli trains with Liverpool kids|
|Winter breaks, long-ball football and the World Cup: Allardyce in his own words|
|Inter warn Napoli Icardi is not for sale|
|Zanetti wants Simeone back at Inter|
|Stoke snap up Sobhi|
|PSG tougher under Emery - Lucas Moura|
|Totti not ready for retirement - Pallotta|
|Confident Allardyce reveals plan for England success|
|Pochettino to discard three Tottenham players|
|Allardyce: Rooney must wait for captaincy decision|
|Aubameyang: I will only leave Dortmund for Real Madrid|
|Allegri silences questions on Pogba|
|Bruce stands by decision to quit Hull City|
|Pochettino: Not the right time for Argentina job|
|Inter yet to approach De Boer with Mancini exit rumoured|
|Ancelotti trusts me more than Guardiola - Ribery|
|Wijnaldum rejected Everton for Klopp|
|Pre-season Manchester derby cancelled|
|Coutinho excited by ´fast´ Liverpool recruits|
|Cristiano Ronaldo and Conor McGregor step into the ring together|
|Mancini coy on reports linking Icardi to Napoli|
|Nolito reveals why he chose Man City over Barcelona|
|Inter 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3: Icardi absence in defeat fuels Napoli talk|