MONTPELLIER SCORED A converted try in the dying seconds to win 30-29 away to reigning champions Clermont on Sunday and retake first place in the Top 14.
Montpellier picked up three points to move a point ahead of La Rochelle and Racing 92, who both won on Saturday.
The defeat leaves Clermont 10th in the table after 16 rounds, 11 points away from the playoff places.
It was only Montpellier’s third victory in eight away games in the league.
With Kiwi coach Vern Cotter making his first return to Clermont, the club he led to their first French title in 2010, Montpellier won by a single point right at the death when Nemani Nadolo scored a 79th-minute try which Ruan Pienaar converted.
The two heavyweights delivered a duel of great intensity as they traded blows and scores.
Montpellier lock Louis Picamoles, dropped by France for the Six Nations, scored two tries in the first 20 minutes, separated by a home try scored by another lock, Paul Jedrasiak.
When Clermont centre Mali Hingano scored a try with 16 minutes left and Greig Laidlaw converted to take his tally to 19 points, the home team led by six.
But giant Fijian winger Nadolo crossed to give Pienaar, who kicked 15 points, the last word.
The only worry for Montpellier was seeing All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden suffer another setback in his injury-plagued Top 14 career when he was forced off with a knee problem after just 24 minutes of the game.
Cruden, 29, who only signed last summer, had already been sidelined by a right knee injury throughout December.
Struggling Stade Francais suffered a 40-5 thrashing at home to Pau in Greg Cooper’s final game in charge of the capital club.
It was announced earlier this month that Cooper would return to New Zealand for personal reasons, the former All Black subsequently citing his daughter’s ill health.
“Mentally, we were not there,” said Stade skipper Sergio Parisse. “It’s our responsibility. We do not look for an excuse.”
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