Lyon and Marseille went into the Christmas recess nursing severe headaches after collapsing to home defeats to Montpellier and Auxerre respectively on Wednesday.
Multiple champions Lyon slipped to sixth place after a 2-1 loss to one of the season’s surprise packages Montpellier, while Marseille fell 2-0 to Auxerre.
Lille, who enjoyed a 4-0 goal spree at Nancy, jumped into second, on 34 points, nine behind Bordeaux, who extended their lead with a 2-1 win over Toulouse in Wednesday’s late game.
Montpellier go into third on 33 points, one point clear of Marseille and Auxerre, with struggling Lyon 13 points off the top.
The dominant force of the past decade, Lyon have now won just once in their last eight league matches and their title challenge and morale appears to be fading by the week.
Lyon, who are in the knockout stages of the Champions League, slipped up to second-half goals by Montpellier striker Victor Montano and Joris Marveaux, with Bafetimbi Gomis getting their only contribution.
It will be the first time Lyon have reached the midway point of the season without figuring in the top three since the 2002-2003 campaign.
The only source of comfort for the seven-time titleholders will be that they ended up champions that season.
The fans at the Stade Gerland are becoming frustrated and whistled manager Claude Puel’s name when it was announced before kick-off.
The mood wasn’t much better down on the south coast at the Stade Velodrome.
Marseille, who had been unable to beat 10-man Saint-Etienne on their last outing, disappointed again, with Auxerre’s three points coming from Denis Oliech’s double.
At Nancy, Ivory Coast international Gervinho bagged two of Lille’s four goals to jump to the top of the French first division scoring charts with an 11-goal haul.
It was Lille’s sixth consecutive win.
There was festive cheer, meanwhile, up in the French capital where Paris Saint-Germain dished out a 4-0 drubbing to basement club Grenoble to improve their prospects of playing in Europe next term.
Later, Bordeaux, already assured of the summit at the midway stage of the season, were on the back foot after just four minutes when Toulouse’s Paulo Mechado found the back of the net.
Marouane Chamakh had the champions back level five minutes later, with Brazilian winger Wendel grabbing the 75th-minute winner.
Down at the foot, Le Mans just managed to stay out of the relegation zone occupied by Grenoble, Boulogne and Saint-Etienne, after a battling 1-1 draw against Monaco.
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