Top 14 leaders Toulon and Clermont, both preparing for European Cup quarter-final action next weekend, looked to have their priorities elsewhere Saturday as both suffered defeats in French league action.
Stade Francais scored five tries to four in a 40-26 victory which prevented Clermont going top in an entertaining, high-quality match in Paris.
And Toulon, top of the table but equal on 61 points with Clermont, missed the chance to pull ahead, falling to a 34-24 defeat in front of a record 64,000 spectators at Marseille`s Velodrome Stadium.
Toulon, who host London Wasps on Sunday week, demonstrated major problems in defence and an inability to control the game after throwing away a comfortable 18-7 half-time lead.
Toulon had come out firing, holding an 18-point advantage after half an hour following two tries from Fijian winger Josua Tuisova, with scrum-half Frederic Michalak notching up 14 points on his return after seven months out following shoulder surgery.
But Toulouse, despite the absence of captain Thierry Dusautoir, and key players including Yoann Maestri, Yoann Huget, and Toby Flood, took 17-0 points from the champions between the 38th and 47th minutes with four tries including a double from Maxime Medard.
For Toulouse, fifth with 53 points, it provided a boost with five matches remaining before the playoffs involving the top six sides.
In Paris, Stade Francais, who had lost their last two home games against Oyonnax and Grenoble, were quick out of the blocks at Stade Jean-Bouin and opened the scoring after just four minutes.
Full back Djibril Camara started a superb counter-attack from within his own 22 metres and Fiji winger Waisea Nayacalevu was on hand to finish the job off with a try which Jules Plission converted.
Stade were 27-7 up at half-time and looking good for the win, but Clermont struck early in the second-half with two tries in the corner for Fiji winger Napolioni Nalaga to cut the gap to eight points.
The Auvergne side were pressing again minutes later only for Jonathan Danty to trigger a superb counter-attack which saw Plisson kick over the remnants of the Clermont defence for winger Julien Arias to touch down for 35-19.
Six minutes from time, Stade effectively sealed the win with their fifth try by replacement hooker Laurent Sempere.Monpellier, inspired by the return of French international fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc, touched down six tries to keep their slim hopes of the playoffs alive with a 45-17 win over Lyon.
Trinh-Duc had not played since breaking his leg in October, and his presence made the difference as he scored the opening try after four minutes and then set up South African Robert Ebersohn for a second to boost his hopes of earning a place in France`s World Cup squad.
Captain Fulgence Ouedraogo and wing Yoann Artru added two additional first half tries to put Montpellier on their way to a first win since January 31 and to move up provisionally to seventh with Grenoble playing Castres later Saturday.
Just a week after the departure of Australian coach Tim Lane, Lyon suffered their biggest loss of the season -- a sixth straight defeat leaving them rock bottom.
Bordeaux`s playoff hopes also took a knock as they lost 22-21 to La Rochelle who boosted their fight against relegation at their Chaban-Delmas stadium.
La Rochelle led Raphael Ibanez`s side 16-0 before a Pierre Bernard penalty gave the hosts their first points for a 16-3 half-time score.
Combined with the defeats of Lyon, Brive amd Bayonne, La Rochelle`s win could prove crucial in the final days of the competition.
Fast-rising Racing-Metro stay fourth after a 12-6 win at Bayonne on Friday night.