Paris: Montpellier drew level on points with French league leaders Bordeaux after beating Rennes 3-1 on Saturday night, while Lyon moved to within two points of the summit by defeating Nice.
Joris Marveaux, lining up against his younger brother Sylvain, set Montpellier on their way at the Stade de la Mosson with two first-half goals.
Jimmy Briand reduced the arrears with 20 minutes to play, side-footing past Geoffrey Jourdren in the home goal after chesting down Asamoah Gyan’s flick-on.
Souleymane Camara restored Montpellier’s two-goal advantage with an emphatic finish in the 82nd minute, before visiting defender Kader Mangane was sent off in injury time after receiving two cautions.
Gyan followed suit shortly after the final whistle, with referee Olivier Thual showing him a straight red card after he appeared to aim a headbutt at Montpellier’s Alberto Costa.
Champions Bordeaux’s trip to Le Mans on Sunday has been postponed due to a severe weather forecast predicting violent winds in the Sarthe region.
Earlier, in-form Lyon moved to within two points of the leaders with a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Nice.
The win for Claude Puel’s side maintained their unbeaten league record in 2010 and secured revenge for a 4-1 defeat at Nice in late October.
Lisandro Lopez put the hosts ahead in the 10th minute at the Stade Gerland, tapping home Miralem Pjanic’s precise low centre from the right.
Having spurned multiple chances, Lyon finally made sure of victory in injury time when Nice defender Onyekachi Apam diverted Mathieu Bodmer’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Lyon substitute Bafetimbi Gomis.
“It’s good for us. We could even have increased the score but we didn’t,” said Bosnian international Pjanic.
“It’s a shame but, at the end of the day, we’ve still scored goals without letting any in.”
Lyon, who will take a 1-0 lead into the away leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid on March 10, now have 49 points, two less than Bordeaux but having played two games more. Laurent Blanc’s side also have two games in hand on Montpellier.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Monaco won 1-0 at home to second-bottom Boulogne to keep hold of seventh place, while Lorient secured their first home win of the year by defeating Sochaux 1-0 thanks to Sigamary Diarra’s 34th-minute strike.
Bottom club Grenoble secured their first away win of a dismal season after a brace from 20-year-old defender Yoric Ravet brought them a 2-0 victory at Nancy.
Saint-Etienne’s bid to pull clear of the relegation zone suffered a blow with a 1-0 defeat at Valenciennes, while Toulouse prevailed by the same scoreline at home to Lens.
The big game of the weekend in France takes place on Sunday, when title challengers Marseille travel to arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain for the second ‘Clasico’ of the season.
Marseille’s fans have pledged to boycott the trip north, however, in protest at what they regard as draconian security measures put in place by the French authorities.
“Marseille supporters don’t agree and they’re right at being lumped together in the same bag as PSG,” said OM president Jean-Claude Dassier.
In Sunday’s other game, fourth meets sixth as Lille host Auxerre.