Wylan Cyprien's first Ligue 1 Conforama goal in ten months gave OGC Nice a 1-0 win over AS Saint-Etienne on Sunday and lifted the Côte d'Azur side to within touching distance of fifth place.
OGC Nice 1-0 AS Saint-Etienne
Saint-Etienne had lost four of their previous five meetings with Nice and won just one of their last 12 Ligue 1 Conforama games. Yet, with new signings Paul-Georges Ntep and Yann M'Vila in the side, and Robert Beric back from a loan spell at Anderlect, Les Verts had - on paper at least - a more solid look.
That appearance translated onto the pitch too early on. Ntep darted forward excitingly just two minutes in before finding Beric - the Slovenian forward's shot was worryingly close to the target for Nice goalkeeper Walter Benitez.
Saint-Etienne also welcomed back number one goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier after a four-game ban, but not even he was able to prevent Nice going ahead. A major miss following the knee ligament injury he suffered last season, Cyprien showed his value to the side as he sent a majestic free-kick into the net (22').
Rémy Cabella might have levelled but for Dante to get enough on his shot to draw the sting of it (35'), but it took a timely Léo Lacroix header to send a Bassem Srarfi effort wide of the target as Nice sought to press home their advantage (55').
The hosts' talented young Tunisian midfielder came close adding a second when he sent a curling shot just wide of the far top corner (76'), but Lucien Favre's men were able to claim all three points with just their single strike.
The win - their sixth in an eight-game unbeaten run - leaves them behind FC Nantes in fifth only on goal difference, while Saint-Etienne, who have now lost five of their last six league games, find themselves just a point above the bottom three.
THE PLAYER: Wylan Cyprien
Next summer's FIFA World Cup will surely come too early for the Nice midfielder, but the 22-year-old is slowly recapturing the form that took him to the bring of France's senior squad last season. This was his first goal since early March last year - there will surely be more to come.
THE STAT: 6
Saint-Etienne have now lost their last six away matches in the top flight.