Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired a superb hat-trick to take his league-leading scoring tally to 17 goals as Paris Saint-Germain closed within two points of leaders Olympique Lyonnais with a clinical 4-0 victory over Valenciennes on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, OGC Nice climbed to joint seventh as they beat nine-man Stade Rennais 1-0, thanks to a 66th-minute penalty by Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich, ending a four-game winning streak for the Brittany side.
Ibrahimovic, the former Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter striker, was in inspirational form as he opened the scoring on 29 minutes, before two second-half goals put the result beyond doubt and gave the capital side the ideal preparation for the visit of Lyon on Sunday.
It was the sixth time this season that the Swedish 31-year-old captain has scored two goals or more in the same match.
Valenciennes were the dominant team from the kickoff and piled pressure on the PSG back four that resulted in Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu having to intervene on several occasions.
The capital side weathered the early storm and forced the opening goal on 29 minutes thanks to an inspirational pass from Javier Pastore that split the home defense wide open.
His angled pass down the right wing found Jeremy Menez, whose shot was parried by Nicolas Penneteau, but it eventually fell to Ibrahimovic, who skilfully redirected the ball past the Valenciennes goalkeeper.
Three minutes after the break, Menez again was the provider as Pastore fed the Frenchman down the left flank and when Penneteau could only push the ball in front of goal, Ibrahimovic gratefully swept home the rebound.
The lively Menez was at the heart of the third PSG goal when the France international stole in behind the defense, before intelligently squaring the ball for the big Swede to easily tap home his third goal after 53 minutes.
As the home side pushed up in a bid to get back into the game, Ezequiel Lavezzi took advantage of that, going on a long run that had Valenciennes at sixes and sevens and he tucked the ball away for his second league goal of the season.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said that his side had performed well as they recorded their third successive win inside a week.
“After two matches at home, it was a good test for us to show our mentality away from home at a difficult stadium,” said Ancelotti, who was under pressure at the beginning of the month after a poor run of form. “Valenciennes have played well their last few matches at home, but we showed good mentality and a good attitude.”
Rennes were trying to make it five wins on the trot away from home as coach Frederic Antonetti took on his former club, now coached by Claude Puel, who had seen his side lose just once this season at home.
A tight match swung the way of the hosts 20 minutes into the second half when substitute Yassine Jebbour was shown a straight red card after being on the pitch for just five minutes following a foul on Eric Bautheac.
Cvitanic stepped up to send Benoit Costil the wrong way from the spot and hand the hosts maximum points.
In the late game, second-half goals by Marko Basa and Dimitri Payet earned LOSC Lille Metropole a 2-0 home win in their middle-of-the-table tie against Toulouse.