Lyon's 2-0 win over Sainté put them right into European contention; PSG had Kylian Mbappé and OM had Dario Benedetto to thank for big wins; and Amiens's hopes of survival took a blow as they lost 1-0 to FC Metz.
Just five days after shocking the world with a 1-0 win over Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie, Olympique Lyonnais continued their season-defining week with another important win - 2-0 over arch-rivals Saint-Etienne in the Rhône derby.
Garcia: 'Keep it going'
OL were high on confidence coming into the match and quickly took the upper hand over out-of-sorts rivals Sainté, who hadn’t won in five Ligue 1 Conforama outings. Club top scorer Moussa Dembélé made the difference first as he headed home a Martin Terrier free-kick and then with a cheeky panenka from the spot to make it 2-0 in the final minute of play.
"We're solid. We knew that a derby isn't played, it's won, but we also played some good football," said coach Rudi Garcia, whose side now sit fifth after months of languishing mid-table and lower. "We made this Saint-Etienne team work hard, left and right... We still need to have more presence when crosses come into the box. First order of business is to recover and think about the Coupe de France semi against Paris. We've just won three games in a row. We've been consistent and we need to keep it going."
Puel's back-foot blues
The loss sees Saint-Etienne slip to 16th, just two points clear of the play-offs (18th) - but they too have a Coupe de France semi to play this week, at home to Rennes on Thursday night, and coach Claude Puel made no bones about the fact that he will be looking for much better from his side.
"Of course there's a lot of disappointment but we have to keep moving and look ahead to this super important semi-final on Thursday," said the former OL and OGC Nice coach. "We have to learn from what we saw tonight so we can get off to a better start against Rennes and put ourselves in a position to decide our fate. Because you just can't spend a whole match on the back foot like we did tonight."
Dortmund on my mind
Meanwhile it was a case of no Neymar, no problem for Paris Saint-Germain as they maintained a 13-point lead atop the Ligue 1 Conforama standings by beating Dijon 4-0 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon. Kylian Mbappé starred with a brace that keeps him atop the scorers chart (18 goals) while Pablo Sarabia and Mauro Icardi were also on target.
"The squad are absolutely determined to show against Dortmund that they are capable of taking that step forward," said coach Thomas Tuchel after the win, already looking ahead to the return leg of PSG's UEFA Champions League last 16 tie with Dortmund on 11 March despite having the Coupe clash with Lyon looming on Wednesday.
"They are having a very consistent season, very reliable, with lots of victories and very strong performances. We cannot lose confidence in this team. The players showed this week how much they wanted to play this game and they proved it today."
Benedetto does the trick
Marseille had Dario Benedetto to thank for the 3-2 win over Nîmes that kept them eight points clear of third-placed Rennes, the Argentine striker hitting his first Ligue 1 Conforama hat-trick - including a superb ship for his second - to take his season tally to 11 goals.
"I'm happy, I'm happy for the team who needed to win this match," said the 29-year-old, whose side had gone unbeaten in 14 league outings before coming unstuck against Nantes in Round 26. "We started off by conceding a goal but fortunately we managed to get level quickly and then get in front. I'm happy with the three goals. Scoring is good for my confidence and I hope to continue in this manner. The important thing is to put together games like that as a team."
At the other end of the table, things got dicier for 19th-placed Amiens after a 1-0 loss at home to fellow relegation contenders FC Metz left Les Licornes five points shy of Nîmes in 18th. Les Grenats may have been without suspended captain Habib Diallo, but Farid Boulaya's lone strike was enough to take the day.
"Anyone who doesn't understand the seriousness of our situation is not doing the right job. You have to understand that we are playing for our lives," said Amiens boss Luka Elsner, who was without suspended top scorer Serhou Guirassy for the clash. "We have a mountain in front of us that seems, to many, impassable. But the reality is that the play-offs are only five points away. We'll have to climb it step by step, holding on tightly to the rope and all together. The likelihood is that our next slip-up will be fatal."
Rennes, LOSC, Montpellier do the job
Things are even more serious for bottom club Toulouse, who were swept aside 2-0 by third-placed Rennes. The Brittany club made it back-to-back wins for the first time in 2020 thanks to superb strikes from Benjamin Bourigeaud and Faitout Maouassa, leaving Le Téfécé nine points shy of Amiens with 11 matches left to save their skins.
LOSC firmed in fourth with a 1-0 win away to Nantes, while Montpellier had a fine day in front of goal, Téji Savanier notably at the double in a 3-0 win over Strasbourg that kept La Paillade's European dreams alive while sending the Alsatians dipping to tenth just as a clash with leaders PSG looms in Round 28.
Superb goals were the order of the day as Bordeaux played host to Nice, but Nicolas De Préville's opener was cancelled out by an Adam Ounas screamer and honours were even at the MATMUT Atlantique.
Angers managed to keep nine points clear of the play-offs with a Stéphane Bahoken-powered 1-0 win in Brest, while Monaco could only draw 1-1 with Reims, Wissam Ben Yedder scoring once again to take his season tally to 17.