The 102-year-old classic also brought Italian Michele Bartoli his second successive World Cup title with one race, the Tour of Lombardy later this month, to go.
Durand, picked as the French team leader for the world championships in the Netherlands in a week's time in the absence of several leading compatriots implicated in doping, was the first Frenchman to win the Paris- Tours in 42 years. Albert Bouvet was the last French winner in 1956.
"It's true, I've made history," Durand said. "I went into the race very motivated. It's the first time I've got to the Paris-Tours in such good physical condition. My sole objective after the Tour de France was the Paris-Tours."
Durand, who has long dreamed of winning the race, finished in front in a stage of the Tour de France in July.
Durand and Italian Mirco Gualdi broke away alone and maintained a lead of around one minute over the peloton until near the end.
The Frenchman attacked early on the long final straight in Tours, leaving Gualdi to come in two seconds ahead.
Durand's Casino team mate Jan Kirsipuu, of Estonia, was third, 31 seconds behind.Reuse content