Long-time leaders Lille drew 1-1 with Bordeaux on Saturday to drop points for the second straight game and Marseille's weekend was made even better by third-placed Lyon losing 1-0 at Paris St Germain.
Hosts PSG had the better of the first half but Lyon were bossing the second until defender Zoumana Camara bundled the ball home on 77 minutes following a free kick to send his side up to fourth, just a point behind their rivals.
Former French powerhouses Lyon, in the third and final Champions League qualifying spot, trail Lille by six points with just seven games left.
Ligue 1
Nervous Lille held to draw
16/04/2011 AT 20:03
In Montpellier, Olivier Giroud put the home side in front midway through the second half but striker Andre-Pierre Gignac quickly equalised for champions Marseille before Nigerian Taye Taiwo netted an 82nd-minute winner from the penalty spot.
Both sides, who also meet in next Saturday's League Cup final, were reduced to 10 men when Marseille's Loic Remy and Montpellier's Abdelhamid El Kaoutari were dismissed for a fracas after the award of the penalty.
"I'm especially happy because it was not an easy match," Marseilles coach Didier Deschamps told reporters.
"It was a victory where we showed heart, it wasn't easy because Montpellier defended very well."
Bottom side Arles-Avignon, promoted last term but well adrift for months, went straight back where they came from after a 1-0 home defeat by fellow strugglers Valenciennes put them out of their misery and confirmed their relegation.
They now face a fight to increase their meagre tally of 13 points and better Racing Lens' 1989 record of a lowest-ever French top-flight total of 17.
Ligue 1
Meaux suffer heartbreaking defeat in Coupe de France
23/01/2013 AT 22:28
Ligue 1
Montpellier defender Jeunechamp handed one-year ban
20/12/2012 AT 22:51