Lille’s Ivory Coast international Salomon Kalou fired a hat-trick to lift the northern French club past Ajaccio 3-2 in Corsica and back into third spot in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
The former Chelsea striker cancelled out compatriot Junior Tallo’s shock first minute opener to level the match from the penalty spot on 25 minutes before scoring again seven minutes before halftime to put the visitors ahead.
Tallo levelled the match for the basement dwellers, who have won just two games all season, just before halftime before Kalou completed his hat-trick, again from the penalty spot, 16 minutes from time to give Rene Girard’s side three crucial points.
“It’s really a miracle that we won tonight,” said Girard.
“We had a very bad match and were never in it and were surprised by this Ajaccio team who had the courage to go for it and cause us serious problems,” he continued.
“It was crucial to get third place back. Saint-Etienne have come back strong the last five matches and we have been battling for results for some time.
“The only thing positive from this match is the three points and we’re going to have to show a lot more in the coming weeks to keep our position.”
Lille now have 49 points, one ahead of Saint-Etienne who upset Monaco 2-0 on Saturday, in the race for third place and the final Champions League spot.
Ajaccio remain rooted to the foot of the table 13 points adrift of safety, and looking increasingly doomed to playing second division football next season.
Paris Saint-Germain are top and five points clear of Monaco, who stay on 56 points, ahead of the weekend blockbuster against Marseille at the Parc des Princes later on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Lyon were held up in their bid to gatecrash the top three with a 0-0 home draw against Montpellier.
In a match that lacked inspiration for the neutrals, Remi Garde’s men moved into a tie for sixth with Reims but remain seven points back of third-placed Lille.
Montpellier, the 2012 champions under Lille coach Girard, continue to ease away from the relegation zone under Rolland Courbis and are now joint 11th with Lorient and 11 points above the drop zone.