With Mario Balotelli forced off the pitch early on, Valere Germain and Luiz Gustavo took on the scoring responsibilities as Marseille beat Nimes 2-1 in the French league on Saturday.
The former European champions ended their three-match winless run to leapfrog Saint-Etienne into fourth place. With six matches left to play, Marseille moved within five points of third-placed Lyon, which lost 2-1 at Nantes on Friday.
Marseille struggled to break the deadlock against its well-organized southern rival but broke through in the 72nd minute from a set piece when Germain scored from Dimitri Payet’s corner with a powerful header at the near post.
Gustavo made it 2-0 in the next minute with a clever curled shot from outside the area that lobbed Nimes goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni.
Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara ensured some suspense with a handball in the box that gave Nimes a penalty with eight minutes left. Teji Savanier converted the penalty with a low shot under Steve Mandanda.
Marseille took a blow early on when Balotelli, who has scored seven league goals in 11 games since joining from Nice, suffered a thigh injury and was forced to leave the pitch in the 32nd.
The hosts pressed hard after the interval and found the net twice but both goals were ruled out by VAR for offside before Germain finally ended the deadlock.
With a 20-point lead at the top, runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain has another chance to seal a sixth title in seven years when it travels to second-placed Lille on Sunday night.