PARIS, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Aruna Dindane overcame the pain of a thigh injury to earn RC Lens a 3-2 victory over St Etienne in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
The Ivory Coast striker, who sustained a thigh strain 25 minutes from time but could not be replaced as coach Jean-Pierre Papin had already made his three substitutions, struck in the 85th minute.
The comeback victory allowed Lens to leave the relegation zone. Papin's side, who have a game in hand, are now 17th in the standings with 12 points from 12 games while St Etienne remain eighth on 18 points after 13 matches.
Lens were nowhere to be seen in the first half, falling behind on 17 minutes when David Gigliotti, standing in for the injured Bafetimbi Gomis, caught the home side's defence off guard before slipping the ball past Vedran Runje.
Five minutes later, midfielder Christophe Landrin made it two at the end of a sharp counter attack.
Lens tried to respond on the half-hour mark but Dindane's header from a Julien Sable free kick was parried off the line by Jeremy Janot.
The St Etienne goalkeeper pulled off another brilliant save in the 63rd minute from an Adama Coulibaly header but the Mali defender poked home the rebound to reduce the gap.
Two minutes later, captain Yoann Demont levelled the tie by firing the ball under the bar from just outside the box.
Dindane could barely run after injuring his left thigh but, with five minutes remaining, he beat three defenders before lobbing the ball over Janot to score the winner.
'The lads showed such character tonight,' said Papin. 'If they keep this state of mind there will be some surprises until the end of the season.'
Promoted Caen eased away from the relegation zone when they beat fifth-placed Le Mans 3-2 in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
Caen, who have a game in hand, now are 15th in the standings with 15 points from 12 matches and lead second-from-bottom Olympique Marseille by four points.
French under-21 midfielder Yoan Gouffran opened the scoring in the 33rd minute but Marko Basa equalised one minute into the second half.
Argentine midfielder Juan Eduardo Eluchans put the home side in front shortly before the hour-mark with Gouffran adding a third on 65 minutes.
Le Mans reduced the gap when Brazilian Tulio bagged his seventh goal of the season 17 minutes from time but Caen held on.
Toulouse and Metz played out a 0-0 draw.
Olympique Lyon maintained their four-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a clinical 2-0 victory over Valenciennes on Saturday.
Brazilian midfielder Juninho struck five minutes from the interval, tapping in a Karim Benzema cross from the left.
Striker Sidney Govou put the result beyond doubt when he lobbed the ball over Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau three minutes from time.
Six-times champions Lyon, who host German champions VfB Stuttgart to keep alive their hopes of progressing from the Champions League group stage on Wednesday, have 31 points from 13 matches.
Second-placed Nancy celebrated their 40th anniversary with a 1-0 win over Girondins Bordeaux earlier on Saturday.
The Lorraine side, who have a game in hand, wrapped up victory in the 29th minute when midfielder Chris Malonga headed in a cross from Youssouf Hadji.
Bordeaux remain fourth with 22 points from 13 games after suffering their first away defeat of the season.
Nancy dominated in front of watching UEFA president Michel Platini, who started his professional career at the club in 1976.
Third-placed Stade Rennes slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Monaco, who had lost five times and drawn once in their six previous league outings.
Frederic Piquionne headed home from a Nene corner kick for the visitors two minutes into the second half.
Troubled Paris St Germain clinched a 2-1 victory at Racing Strasbourg when the Alsace side's captain Rodrigo scored an own goal and 20-year-old midfielder Loris Arnaud doubled the tally after just 19 minutes.
Olympique Marseille were held to an embarrassing goalless draw by Lorient and remain third from bottom.
RC Lens will try to move out of the danger zone when they take on St Etienne on Sunday.