Paris Saint-Germain's hopes of winning a first French crown since 1994 and thereby giving David Beckham's upcoming stint in the City of Light a glorious tinge were boosted Sunday when their nearest rivals dropped points.
Lyon slumped to what could prove to be a significant 3-1 home loss to mid-table Lille as the easterners failed to make inroads into a six-point deficit while third-placed Marseille, the 2010 champions, could only manage a 1-1 draw at modest Evian after finishing with nine men.
Lyon handed Lille their first win of 2013 after the hosts turned in a pale showing at the Stade Gerland.
Aurelien Chedjou headed Lille in front from a corner on the half hour and then Dimitri Payet fed Florent Balmont, formerly of Lyon, for the second on the stroke of half-time.
Salomon Kalou made it 3-0 to the visitors with a penalty five minutes after the restart following a handball by Milan Bisevac before Argentine striker Lisandro pulled one back from the spot after Chedjou was adjudged to have impeded him.
While Lyon, all of whose titles came on a roll between 2002 and 2008, went down to their fifth league loss, Marseille found struggling Evian an irritating rival.
Andre-Pierre Gignac scored five minutes after the break for Marseille, playing a one-two with Mathieu Valbuena, for his eighth goal of the season.
But the southerners' hopes of a win evaporated when Yannick Sagbo levelled on the hour from the penalty spot to leave OM eight points off the summit.
The spot-kick came following a foul on Saber Khlifa by Kassim Abdallah, for which the latter, an international defender for the Comoros Islands, saw red as the last man.
Marseille also had Ghanaian star Jordan Ayew sent off with 15 minutes remaining for two yellow cards in quick succession after coming on as a substitute and were unable to do better than glean only their second point in their last three league matches, leaving coach Elie Baup frustrated.
"It's not enough as you always hope to win. We could have done but then we ended up down to nine men. I did see some interesting elements for the future."
On Ayew's swift dismissal Baup said: "You have to be careful once you're on a booking. He's young and impulsive but this will help him to mature. It's a painful learning process for everyone. These are things which can be avoided," Baup reflected.
Marseille also suffered from the absence through a foot injury of Ayew's brother Andre and suspended English midfielder Joey Barton.
PSG, looking forward to having global icon Beckham available from this week, beat Bastia 3-1 at the Parc des Princes on Friday with Jeremy Menez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi all on target.
Saint Etienne and Rennes are both on 40 points, only three behind Marseille, after the former overcame blizzard-like conditions in the Rhone-Alpes region to move fourth with a 4-1 home win over reigning champions Montpellier.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his 11th goal of the campaign with Brandao, Yohan Mollo and Mathieu Bodmer helping extend Les Verts' winning streak to four games.
Rennes kept their impressive form going with a 2-0 home success over Toulouse courtesy of goals from Romain Alessandrini and Mevlut Erding.