PARIS — Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for the first time in five league games, blasting home a penalty as Paris Saint-Germain secured a scrappy 1-0 win at Saint-Etienne to stay four points behind leader Lyon, which beat 10-man Metz 2-0 in Sunday's earlier game with top scorer Alexandre Lacazette limping off shortly after scoring.
The win moves PSG up to second place, level on points and on goal difference with bitter rival Marseille, while Saint-Etienne remains in fourth spot.
"The whole team did well and we're starting to play the right away again. The team spirit's improved and we've won four (games in a row)," PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. "We're still within touching distance and that's a good thing, because it's very important not to let Lyon get too far ahead of us. We've beaten Saint-Etienne three times this season, so that shows that PSG's not finished."
Ibrahimovic was kept quiet until the second half, when his 60th-minute spot-kick finally broke Saint-Etienne's stubborn resistance. It was awarded after midfielder Jeremy Clement was adjudged to have handled the ball, with replays showing it struck him just at the top of his right arm.
As he was preparing to take the kick, Ibrahimovic removed some debris thrown onto the pitch and composed himself before shooting hard to the left of goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, who almost got his fingers to the ball.
Moments earlier, Ruffier saved with his legs after Ibrahimovic latched on to a fine pass from midfielder Marco Verratti and tried to clip the ball over him.
Ibrahimovic, who scored the winning goal away to Saint-Etienne in the League Cup quarterfinals two weeks ago, missed a chance to make it 2-0 in the 70th when he rushed his shot and his strike partner Edinson Cavani hit the crossbar with a neat lob five minutes later.
However, Ibrahimovic was lucky not to be sent off in injury time for going in late and high on Romain Hamouma with a wild and dangerous lunge, escaping with a yellow card.
Saint-Etienne lamented the penalty decision but failed to hit the target once.
Earlier, Lacazette scored his league-leading 21st goal of the season to put Lyon ahead in the 31st minute — his 13th goal in the past nine games — and then hurt his right hamstring two minutes later as he stretched for a high ball.
Lyon coach Hubert Fournier expects him to miss at least next Sunday's trip to fifth-place Monaco, with Lyon hosting PSG the following weekend.
"Alex has probably pulled a muscle," Fournier said. "It's the only negative point of the afternoon."
Midfielder Corentin Tolisso — one of eight homegrown players in the side — added the other goal with a fine dipping strike in the 84th.
Argentine defender Guidi Milan was sent off as the last man when he fouled Rachid Ghezzal, who went over under slight contact.
Also, Evian beat fellow struggler Toulouse 1-0; Caen moved above Lens and into 18th place after a morale-boosting 4-1 win at Rennes, and Lens drew 0-0 at Reims.