Paris Saint-Germain’s titles hopes suffered a major blow when they lost 2-1 at LOSC Lille Metropole on Sunday to stay five points behind Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier Herault with four games left.
Qatari-backed PSG remain second on 67 points, two ahead of champions Lille, who moved back into contention for an automatic Champions League place.
Unheralded Montpellier took a big step toward their first league crown when they won 1-0 at Toulouse on Friday.
“It will be more difficult now to clinch the title, but we have to keep on working and believing it’s possible,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti told Canal+ television.
PSG, who lost winger Jeremy Menez to injury minutes before the match, were on track to keep Montpellier within reach when a Javier Pastore header gave them the lead in the 48th minute.
They were playing well until Mamadou Sakho, who had replaced injured Milan Bisevac just before halftime, was shown a straight red card for a foul on substitute Nolan Roux in the 71st minute.
In-form Eden Hazard, who has now scored eight goals and set up six others in his past eight games, canceled out the opener from the penalty spot.
Roux clinched the hosts’ victory eight minutes later when he headed home from close range.
Pastore and Hazard had their chances to score in the first half, but the Argentina playmaker’s fine volley hit the woodwork in the 27th minute. Hazard was also denied by the post.
At Stade Rennais, Julien Feret scored one goal and set up another to help the hosts climb to fourth place as they defeated 10-man AC Ajaccio 3-1.
Rennes won their fourth consecutive league match to occupy the first Europa League spot on 57 points and they are one ahead of French Cup winners Olympique Lyonnais, who have a game in hand.
Feret gave his side the lead when goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa deflected a Jires Kembo shot on to the woodwork, only to see the Rennes playmaker head the ball in on the rebound in the 27th minute.
Razak Boukari doubled their advantage with five minutes to go when he bent the ball into the top-right corner from outside the penalty box, before Yacine Brahimi ran through to seal the victory in stoppage-time following a Feret pass.
Ajaccio were reduced to 10 men after just 11 minutes when Samuel Bouhours was sent off for a harsh tackle on Jonathan Pitroipa. Ilan’s 89th-minute goal was of no use.
AS Saint-Etienne stayed in contention for a European berth as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his 14th goal of the league season to earn his side a 1-0 home win over lowly Dijon FCO.
Les Verts are sixth, while Dijon lie 16th, one place above Ajaccio.
At the bottom, basement side AJ Auxerre kept their thin hopes of avoiding relegation alive after they thrashed fellow strugglers Stade Brestois 29 4-0 at home.
Auxerre, who featured in the Champions League group stage last season, are three points from safety.
Brest sacked coach Alex Dupont this week after they lost six of the past seven games and they stay 18th, while Sochaux-Montbeliard are a spot below and on the same points, having lost 3-0 at home to mid-table Girondins de Bordeaux after they were reduced to nine men.
Also on Sunday, AS Nancy-Lorraine drew 1-1 with Stade Malherbe Caen, while Valenciennes beat OGC Nice 2-0.
Additional reporting by staff writer