Paris St Germain bolstered their chances of avoiding relegation from the French top flight on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Auxerre courtesy of goals from Pedro Pauleta and a brace from Amara Diane.
Skipper Pauleta, now 34 and playing in his fifth and final season at the Parc des Princes, had urged the fans to get behind a team woefully short on confidence despite a league cup final success and run to the French Cup semi-finals.
And the former Bordeaux man led by example, netting his 200th goal in France in all competitions with a fine strike after seeing his initial third-minute free kick come back off the visiting wall.
The goal helped set up a win which brought PSG level on points with fourth-bottom Lens, playing later at Le Mans.
Desperately needing the three points, PSG cast aside their nerves with the early opener and on 13 minutes Diane doubled their advantage with a run to the edge of the box, shrugging off Sammy Traore before drilling the second past Remy Riou in the Auxerre goal.
PSG were content to sit on the lead through to the break, protecting keeper Mickael Landreau, much criticised earlier in the campaign for some howlers.
Auxerre, six points clear of PSG at start of day but still not mathematically safe themselves, suddenly burst into life in the final quarter and their hosts looked ruffled as Jean-Pascal Mignot nodded in from close range with 12 minutes remaining.
But urged on by frantic coach Paul Le Guen from the touchline, PSG redoubled their efforts to make the points safe and Diane clinched the win with his ninth of the season, sliding home from less than a metre out after a goalmouth scramble.
Pauleta picked up a harsh booking for taking a quick free kick to spoil his day slightly – he will now miss the May 6 Cup semi with Amiens – but that could not take the gloss off a fine individual showing although PSG as a whole showed the spirit lacking in many previous outings.
Later Saturday, PSG’s relegation rivals Strasbourg were facing Rennes and Toulouse were up against Lille.
Champions-elect Lyon, who have threatened to pull out of the French Cup owing to what they see as an overcrowded fixtures programme, were hosting modest Caen seeking to protest their four-point lead over Bordeaux, who were in turn hosting Nice.
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