Saint-Etienne missed the chance to leapfrog Marseille into third spot in the French League on Friday, settling for a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Rennes in what was a dress rehearsal for next month's League Cup final.
Les Verts made it 13 games unbeaten in all competitions in 2013 and the former giants of the French game look a good bet for a European berth of some kind.
But they had to make do with a single point after twice coming from behind against a Rennes side with top six ambitions of their own.
Romain Danze headed Rennes in front on the stroke of half-time after the hosts had had an earlier effort ruled out for a foul by John Boye on keeper Stephane Ruffier, who dropped the ball over his own line.
But there was still time for the visitors to level before the interval as Yohan Mollo fired in after colleague Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had missed his kick.
Six minutes after the restart, Julien Feret put Rennes back in front only for Mollo to set up a neat finish for Aubameyang in the 66th minute, the Gabonese striker netting for the seventh consecutive league match.
Saint Etienne, now winless in seven visits to this corner of Brittany, have 48 points from 28 games, one behind Marseille, who take on second-placed Lyon at the Stade de Gerland on Sunday.
Lyon are two points adrift of league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who will be expected to beat struggling Nancy at home on Saturday with David Beckham possibly in their starting line-up after he was rested for their Champions League tussle with Valencia in midweek, which earned the capital club a quarter-final berth.
Marseille are three points adrift of Lyon as they chase a top three finish, bringing with it Champions League football next season.
Rennes stand provisionally eighth, six points behind Friday's rivals.
Elsewhere on Saturday, fifth-placed Nice entertain sixth-placed Montpellier, said to be entertaining the idea of approaching Diego Maradona as coach next season, while in-form Lille will be looking for a fifth straight league win when they travel to northern neighbours Valenciennes.