Marseille snapped a seven-match winless streak with a 2-1 victory over Sochaux on Sunday, while Nantes climbed to fourth.
Head coach Elie Baup was under significant pressure at Marseille heading into their home clash against rock-bottom Sochaux, his side having lost six of their last seven in a dreadful run of form.
But Marseille finally returned to winning ways – and climbed to fifth in the process – with a nervy win at Stade Velodrome.
Highly rated 20-year-old Florian Thauvin, who scored in a 3-2 UEFA Champions League defeat at Napoli on Wednesday, gave Marseille the lead after just four minutes when he headed in Benjamin Mendy’s cross.
However, Sochaux made the hosts work hard, claiming a 60th-minute equaliser through Southampton loanee Emmanuel Mayuka.
Mayuka curled an exceptional effort into the top corner and his strike caused some anxious moments for Baup, who reacted by introducing Andre-Pierre Gignac and Saber Khelifa off the bench.
Dimitri Payet had a goal ruled out for offside as Marseille pressed for a winner, and they were gifted a great chance with seven minutes to play when Mathieu Peybernes was adjudged to have handled in his own area.
Gignac stepped up and buried the resulting penalty, his fifth goal of the season enough to secure all three points.
Lyon also won 2-1 as Jeremy Briand’s stoppage-time strike earned bragging rights in the Rhone derby against Saint-Etienne.
Alexandre Lacazette put Lyon in front three minutes after half-time.
Saint-Etienne responded 25 minutes from time, thanks to Romain Hamouma, but Briand – who came off the bench with 18 minutes left – gave his side victory.
Nantes rose to fourth after a 3-0 triumph at Bordeaux, who were previously unbeaten in seven league games.
Vincent Bessat, Papy Djilobodji and Filip Djordjevic scored for the victors.