PARIS — Center back Marko Basa and striker Nolan Roux scored a goal each as Lille beat Montpellier 2-0 on Sunday to strengthen its grip on third place in the French league.
Basa rose to powerfully head in Florent Balmont's free kick from the right in the 19th minute. Roux got his seventh league goal of the season in the 58th, finishing with an acrobatic volley after center back David Rozehnal's header came back off the crossbar.
"We're back on the front foot. We've been playing for a while now but there was always missing something," Lille coach Rene Girard said. "I thought the lads were very determined today. They created chances, scored goals. It's probably our best team performance of the year — there was more movement, more teamwork."
The win gives Lille some breathing space as fourth-placed Saint-Etienne fell four points behind, following a 1-0 loss at midtable Lorient. Forward Jeremie Aliadiere scored with a last-minute penalty after midfielder Joshua Guilavogui handled the ball.
Saint-Etienne had lost only one of its past 11 games but rode its luck before Aliadiere's goal.
Moments earlier, Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier saved midfielder Sadio Diallo's header and, from the rebound, Diallo headed again only for left back Benoit Tremoulinas to clear the ball off the line.
Later, Bordeaux hosts sixth-placed Lyon.
French leader Paris Saint-Germain won 3-0 at Bastia on Saturday to maintain its eight-point lead over Monaco.