Paris: Claude Puel's long term position as Lyon coach looked increasingly untenable on Wednesday as they slumped to their worst defeat since 2006 with a 4-0 drubbing by Auxerre to end both their outside hopes of winning the title and extend a three year trophy drought.
The title now rests between leaders Lille and defending champions Marseille, who trail by four points with three matches remaining after easing to a 3-0 home win over struggling Brest.
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps was delighted that his side had reacted in the best possible manner after their 3-2 defeat by Lyon on Sunday as they took the three points with goals by Loic Remy, Jordan Ayew and veteran Gabriel Heinze.
"I am very happy with our performance and the result," said Deschamps.
"We are not forbidden from dreaming, but we should be realistic, our hopes are tiny of winning the title."
"Lille have the odds more in their favour."
While Puel's present club wilted so did another of his former sides, as Monaco's relegation worries deepened with a 3-0 thrashing by Sochaux leaving them just a point above third from bottom Nancy.
"It's a big slap of course. A match to forget," said Puel.
"The goal we conceded was stupid, the red card stupid as well. We're in the final sprint with a lot of pressure and expectation."
"Despite the blow that doesn't hide the fact that we've three very important matches left. We're going to focus on the next game at Brest."
Puel, who got the Lyon job after performing well both at Monaco and then at Lille, will at least see the season out as was confirmed by club president Jean-Michel Aulas.
"One does not change coach two or three matches before the end of the season and when one is third in the league," said Aulas.
"Claude Puel will be in charge till the end of the season. We don't have a choice."
Auxerre, who are all but safe now as they have a six point advantage over Nancy, ended any hopes Lyon had of staying in the hunt for the title with two goals in the first-half.
Kenyan international Denis Oliech did superbly to open the score for Auxerre as though he outpaced Brazilian centreback Cris, he was brought down by the veteran defender but still managed to place the ball past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Lyon struggled to gain any authority in midfield which was hardly surprising given they were missing the injured trio of French international duo Yoann Gourcuff and Jeremy Toulalan and veteran Swede Kim Kallstrom.
Their task became mission impossible as they were reduced to 10 men in the 38th minute when Dejan Lovren was red carded by referee Philippe Kalt for a second bookable offence when he brought down the lively Oliech.
It came as no surprise that the hosts doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time as Alain Traore beat both Cris and Lloris to the ball to head home.
Traore's second was a delight, as he played a superb 1-2 with Roy Contout, who delivered a beautifully weighted pass that pierced the Lyon defence and Traore shot home to provoke many Lyon fans to vacate the stands while those who stayed unfurled a banner calling for Puel to resign.
Those calls got louder as Auxerre incredibly added a fourth 12 minutes from time as Cedric Hengbart stole in to rattle it home.
Caen secured a point in their fight against relegation away at Rennes, whose challenge for the title has faded badly in the past two months after a run of nine matches without a win.
Caen had to come from behind, 16-year-old sensation M'Biaye Niang - who last Saturday against Lens became the second youngest scorer in French league history aged 16 years and four months just a month older than the record holder Laurent Roussey in April 1978 - getting the equaliser.
Rennes' hopes of a European spot also threaten to unravel after Sochaux moved to within a point of them as they beat Monaco 3-0 to make it seven goals scored and none conceded in their last two matches.