In the absence of top scorers Alassane Plea and Mario Balotelli, title contender Nice found an unlikely savior as Mickael Le Bihan came off the bench to score twice in a comeback 2-1 win against Montpellier on Friday.
The win moved Nice into second place and level on points with leader Monaco ahead of this weekend’s games.
With Plea injured and Balotelli suspended, Nice started with Greek striker Anastasios Donis, who is on loan from Juventus. But it was Le Bihan grabbing the headlines, 17 months after his last appearance in the top flight. He had not played in Ligue 1 since sustaining a leg fracture in September 2015 during a league game against Bordeaux.
With Nice trailing to a goal from striker Steve Mounie in the ninth minute, Le Bihan replaced Donis in the 59th minute and scored nine minutes later. He slotted home the winner with a composed finish four minutes from time, following a flowing move that started in Nice’s penalty area.
Nice remains the only team still unbeaten at home along with defending champion Paris Saint-Germain.
Montpellier dominated the first half and Mounie scored his 11th goal this season from close range after Nice failed to clear a free kick from midfielder Ryad Boudebouz, who then hit the post with a curling shot in the last minute.
Monaco travels to Guingamp on Saturday and third-place PSG, which is three points behind, is at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.
NANTES 3, DIJON 1
Substitute Felipe Pardo scored a fine goal as Nantes moved six points clear of the relegation zone.
Yacine Bammou opened the scoring for Nantes after three minutes with a low shot under keeper Baptiste Reynet, but the hosts could not hold their lead as defender Leo Dubois inadvertently flicked the ball into the back of his own net in the 37th.
Striker Emiliano Sala made it 2-1 from the spot near the hour mark and Pardo completed the win in style with 11 minutes left.
The former Olympiakos player got to the ball first on the edge of the area after Reynet raced from his goal, got past a defender with a fine dribble near to the corner flag and then arrowed the ball into the opposite corner.
Nantes is in 11th place and Montpellier is 12th.