Przemyslaw Frankowski scored a second-half penalty as Lens beat lowly Auxerre 1-0 on Saturday to cut Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 lead to three points.
The Polish international converted from the spot with an hour to go as Lens posted 10 wins in as many home games in the league this season.
“Knowing how to win these kinds of games, even if it’s difficult, is very important,” Lens coach Franck Haise said.
“We like to win in style, but I’m not going to get mad because we didn’t have the game of the century.”
Lens has 44 points, his highest total in the middle stage of any senior season. The club won its only Ligue 1 title in 1997-98.
“I don’t know what the second half will be like, but the first half of the season has been outstanding,” Haise added.
Auxerre slid to a fifth straight loss and defender Isaak Toure was sent off shortly after the goal. They sit two points from safety in 19th and next to last.
Marseille are two points behind Lens in third place after coming from behind to defeat Lorient 3-1 at the Velodrome.
Terem Moffi’s 12th goal of the season put Lorient ahead, but Sead Kolasinac headed Marseille before the break.
Alexis Sánchez put the hosts in front early in the second half and Jordan Veretout added a third as Marseille claimed their sixth successive league win.
Laurent Blanc’s Lyon further lost pace in the fight for European places with a 2-1 home loss to downcast Strasbourg.
Goals from Jean-Eudes Aholou and Habib Diallo within three minutes of the first half put the visitors in control and they held on despite Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty.
Strasbourg climbed out of the relegation zone and picked up four points from two games, following a midweek draw with Lens, since sacking manager Julien Stephan on Monday.
PSG’s trip to Rennes on Sunday will be the first time their three superstars of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have played together since the World Cup.
Rennes won their last eight league games at home but lost top scorer Martin Terrier for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury two weeks ago.