Olympique Lyonnais, looking to win the French title for the first time in five seasons, went top of the heap on Saturday with a 2-1 win at ES Troyes AC propelling them ahead of big spenders Paris Saint-Germain.
Lyon shrugged off the embarrassment of a Cup exit to third division Epinal after Maxime Gonalons and Samuel Umtiti, at the second attempt, found the net from two well-rehearsed corner routines — one from Steed Malbranque, the other from Arnold Mvuemba.
Benjamin Nivet gave Troyes brief hope with a fine volley, sandwiching the two goals for the visitors, but this latest reverse leaves them six points from safety after only two wins in their opening 20 league matches.
Also on Saturday, second half goals from Yoan Gouffran and Henri Saivet handed Girondins de Bordeaux an impressive 2-0 win at a Stade Rennais side who allowed their rivals to poach fourth place off them.
Lorient, hoping to trim a seven-point gap on Marseille, instead went down to a 2-0 loss to defending champions Montpellier Herault, who have struggled this term and were thumped at LOSC Lille Metropole just before the winter break.
Montpellier coach Rene Girard pulled a rabbit out of the hat in sending on Gaetan Charbonnier for Emanuel Herrera on the hour and he promptly scored twice in the final 11 minutes as the hosts moved up to eighth — just three points behind Bordeaux.
Elsewhere, rock-bottom AS Nancy-Lorraine settled for a 2-2 home draw with Lille after Thomas Ayasse grabbed an 82nd-minute equalizer.