PARIS — Brazilian winger Lucas and striker Edinson Cavani scored a goal each as unbeaten Paris Saint-Germain overcame a poor start before beating Marseille 2-0 on Sunday to close the gap on its bitter rival to one point.
League leader Marseille made a far brighter start, pinning PSG back in its own half for the opening 20 minutes, and hit the post in the fifth minute through striker Andre-Pierre Gignac's header.
Lucas capped a flowing move in the 38th minute and Edinson Cavani scored for the fifth successive game with a firm downward header in the 85th.
"Physically Marseille was better than us," PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. "But it made us aware that we needed to raise our level, and our second half was of a very high standard."
Marseille finished the match with 10 men after midfielder Giannelli Imbula was shown a straight red card in the 77th.
PSG welcomed back star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic after seven weeks out with a heel injury but he was kept on the bench until the 65th minute, and then played largely for himself as he missed out teammates on several occasions when they were much better placed.
"He's a unique player for us," PSG left back Maxwell said. "Little by little he will find his form again."
After Gignac hit the bar from a corner, winger Romain Alessandrini went just wide with a first-time shot from just outside of the penalty area. Gignac then expertly took down a long ball on his chest and, with center half Thiago Silva backing off, struck a curling shot wide of the right post.
"We're frustrated. It's a shame because we played well and it's a pity that we got this red card because we were in it until the end," Gignac said. "We hit the crossbar and missed other chances so there's nothing to say. But we're still first. We have two homes games coming up against Bordeaux and Nantes, and we'll have to take maximum points."
PSG didn't threaten until the midway through the first half, when Lucas latched onto a rebound in the penalty area and forced Mandanda into a smart save.
'Keeper Salvatore Sirigu was called into action soon after, diving to push away Alessandrini's powerful strike from 20 yards out.
Against the run of play, Lucas put PSG ahead.
Ezequeil Lavezzi collected a long pass from Silva on the left wing and headed the ball down to Cavani, who expertly flicked it back instantly to Lavezzi, who then crossed to the back post where Lucas stole in ahead of a casual Benjamin Mendy to prod home.
A terrible mistake from Sirigu almost gifted Marseille an equalizer in the 52nd.
His poor clearance fell straight to Gignac some 25 yards out, but instead of squaring the ball to teammate Florian Thauvin, he tried to chip Sirigu but instead his poorly hit shot was easily saved.
"We lost tonight because we didn't take our chances," goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said. "We had more possession than PSG, especially at the start."
Things got worse for Marseille when Imbula was harshly sent off for a slightly late tackle on midfield counterpart Yohan Cabaye, although there was minimal contact.
Earlier, Alexandre Lacazette scored his league-leading 11th goal of the season and midfielder Nabil Fekir scored twice as Lyon beat Guingamp 3-1 to move to within two points of leaders Marseille.
Guingamp pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time when Sylvain Marveaux's freekick hit the crossbar, bounced down onto goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and went in.
Meanwhile, sixth-place Saint-Etienne missed the chance to move up to fifth with a 1-1 draw at home to Monaco.
Midfielder Jeremy Toulalan put Monaco ahead and striker Ricky Van Wolfswinkel replied for Les Verts.
Reims moved up to 10th place with a 2-0 win against Lille.
Benjamin Moukandjo scored from the penalty spot and defender Aissa Mandi got the other goal as Lille slipped down to 14th spot.
Bordeaux won 2-1 at Lens on Saturday to move into fourth position.