Seven minutes from time against arch-rivals Paris St-Germain at the Parc des Princes, Marseilles were 1-0 up and looking at a four-point lead with two games to go, with second-placed Bordeaux, who had started the night two points adrift, were being held 2-2 away to the outgoing champions, RC Lens.
Then a spate of four goals, two each by Bordeaux and PSG, played havoc with the statistics. Marseilles were beaten 2-1 by the Parisians - their first defeat in nine years at the hands of PSG - following an 84th-minute strike by Marco Simone and Bruno Rodriguez's winner in the 87th. Now they are a point adrift of Bordeaux and no longer in the driving seat.
Sylvain Wiltord put Bordeaux 3-2 up at Lens in the 83rd and Johan Micoud hit their fourth in the 90th. "In the same minutes, there is Paris's equaliser then their victory and that [the triumph] of Bordeaux at Lens," Marseilles' crestfallen coach, Rolland Courbis, said. "We have to raise our hats to the Girondins [Bordeaux] even if Lens maybe had their minds on their League Cup final [against Metz on Saturday]," Courbis said.
Marseilles lost 4-0 at Lens 12 days ago but clung to their lead over Bordeaux then because their title challengers were going through a bad patch with no victories or goals in three games up to their 1-0 home defeat by Monaco on Friday.
The Lyons coach, Bernard Lacombe, said after his side drew 0-0 at Marseilles' Velodrome on Friday that their hosts would win the title. But the PSG coach, Philippe Bergeroo, thought otherwise and sent his side out to turn the match at the Parc around in the second half with three forwards as substitutes. "It was a poker throw and we scored twice but we could also have conceded two," said Bergeroo, whose side entertain Bordeaux on 29 May, the last day of the season.
Courbis conceded: "We're no longer masters of our own destiny. We'll see if we're strong enough to digest this disappointment, notably in view of the Parma match."
Marseilles must lift themselves to face Parma next Wednesday in the Uefa Cup final in Moscow without five suspended players following their controversial semi-final at Bologna, which ended with a pitchside brawl.
Originally it was thought Bordeaux had lost their edge through lack of competition, having bowed out of both domestic cups and the Uefa Cup by mid-March. Now it seems Marseilles may be feeling the exertions of chasing two trophies, including a ninth league championship, which could both slip from their grasp at the final hurdle.
It was not al,l good news for PSG, though. Fourteen of their fans have been charged over hooliganism. The arrests follow incidents before, during and after Tuesday's match when police had to break up trouble in bars around the ground, and there were outbreaks of violence in the stands. At the final whistle scores of PSG fans invaded the pitch to taunt their rivals, and rival supporters showered each other with flag poles and other objects, including fireworks.
Police said they were also looking into trouble involving Marseilles fans on the way home which left two carriages of a high-speed TGV train badly damaged. Marseilles fans also wrecked buses in which they were travelling through Paris.
The SNCF, the national rail service, said they would send a bill for the damage to Marseilles.Reuse content