Wahbi Khazri struck both goals as AS Saint-Etienne compounded Olympique de Marseille's woes with a 2-1 win on Tuesday that takes Les Verts into third place in the Ligue 1 Conforama table.
AS Saint-Etienne 2-1 Olympique de Marseille
Goals: 0-1 Strootman (16'), 1-1 Khazri (57' pen.), 2-1 Khazri (88')
Marseille had not won in eight games in all competitions, and with Olympique Lyonnais only taking a point from their rearranged Week 17 fixture at Toulouse FC earlier in the evening, the hosts knew they had an opportunity to step onto the podium.
Lyon, who come to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Sunday, had moved a point clear of Jean-Louis Gasset's side with their 2-2 draw in the south west meaning victory was required to see the hosts move ahead of their Rhône rivals.
Neven Subotic, back in the home defence for the first time since early December, ensured Florian Thauvin's early shot did not trouble Stéphane Ruffier (9'), but the Serbian could do nothing when the France international crossed fo Kevin Strootman to head home his maiden top-flight goal since his summer move from AS Roma (16').
Loïc Perrin headed just wide (25') as Saint-Etienne sought to level while Khazri was frustrated by Luiz Gustavo (32') as OM, who had lost five of their last nine away games, held a welcome lead at the break.
It didn't last though. Ole Selnaes forced a good save from Steve Mandanda (55') before VAR intervened to award Sainté a penalty for a foul by the OM goalkeeper on Khazri, who dispatched the spot-kick himself (57').
The ever-vigilant Ruffier pushed out a Thauvin header (60') and then a blockbuster shot from the FIFA World Cup winner (61'), but Rudi Garcia's men were unable to find a way through.
Saint-Etienne came on strong in the closing stages with Khazri bringing another fine stop from Mandanda (80') and Yannis Salibur did the same (87') before Khazri sent a glorious shot crashing into the net (88') to give the hosts the edge ahead of Sunday's derby date, which now has so much more than local bragging rights riding on it.
THE PLAYER: Wahbi Khazri
The Tunisia international now has a career-best 12 goals this season, claiming five of them in his last four league games. If Saint-Etienne are to make what would be a fairytale return to the top level of European competition next season, Khazri holds the key.
THE STAT: 7
Khazri has now scored in seven of his last eight home games in Ligue 1 Conforama, while ten of his total of 12 strikes this season have come at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.