PARIS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A clinical 3-1 victory at Valenciennes lifted RC Lens to second place in Ligue 1 on Saturday after Lille were held 0-0 by struggling Nantes.
Former France midfielder Eric Carriere headed home on 28 minutes to open the scoring, with captain Seydou Keita doubling the tally on the stroke of halftime from a packed goalmouth.
Striker Steve Savidan reduced the gap from the spot, only for Tunisia forward Issam Jemaa to wrap up the win in injury time.
'Valenciennes had a strong start to the second half and eventually the game was much tighter than I expected,' said Carriere. 'After our crazy game against St Etienne, we had to win here.'
Lens clinched a 3-3 home draw against St Etienne last weekend after being led 3-0 at half-time.
They now have 40 points from 23 matches and trail leaders Olympique Lyon, who travel to Troyes on Sunday, by 11 points as Lille were held by Nantes in Saturday's early kick-off.
Lille, who were knocked out of the French Cup by the Canaries earlier this week, had the best chances with Nicolas Plestan and Jean Makoun hitting the woodwork twice in the first half.
Nantes, who were without injured goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, held on until the final whistle despite Lille's late attacks.
'They are a strong team but maybe they were also tired after the French Cup match,' said Nantes coach Georges Eo.
'Nantes were solid tonight. We did not manage to find the solution on the wings,' said Lille defender Gregory Tafforeau. 'We were not really lucky on set pieces.'
St Etienne's European hopes suffered a setback as Les Verts slumped to a 2-1 home defeat against bottom club Sedan.
The hosts opened the scoring through forward Bafetimbi Gomis but Sedan levelled courtesy of a Joseph Desire Job goal.
St Etienne defender Lamine Diatta then deflected a Nicolas Marin attempt into his own net in the 77th minute.
Former St Etienne striker Frederic Piquionne celebrated his debut with Monaco by scoring from the spot in his side's 2-1 victory over AJ Auxerre.
Nice added to Girondins Bordeaux's woes by beating the Aquitaine side 2-1 three days after they were knocked out of the French Cup by amateurs Montceau.
On Sunday, in-form Olympique Marseille host troubled Paris St Germain in a heavily policed game.