If Lille harbour any hopes of staying the course in the supremely congested Ligue 1 title race, Sunday's trip to champions Marseille looks like a game they cannot afford to lose.
Five points clear on February 13, Lille's lead has been whittled down to goal difference by second-placed Rennes after the leaders lost 1-0 at Montpellier and then drew 1-1 at home to Lyon in their last two outings.
The wobble has allowed the chasing pack to draw in, leaving the top five teams separated by just four points ahead of this weekend's matches.
Lille's slump has also seen them exit the Europa League, at the hands of PSV Eindhoven, but they edged Lorient on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the French Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday to break out of a four-game winless run.
"Qualifying is a boost for the trip to Marseille," said Lille central midfielder Florent Balmont.
"At Marseille we'll have to be strong, but we shouldn't be timid. We know it's going to be very difficult. If we get a point there, we'll be happy."
Third-place Marseille have flattered to deceive at times this season but their 2-1 victory at Nancy last weekend was their fourth league win in a row and moved them to within a point of Sunday's opponents.
OM are well placed to reach the Champions League quarter-finals after drawing 0-0 with Manchester United in the first leg of their last 16 tie, while they are also set to meet Montpellier in next month's League Cup final.
Following Sunday's visit of Lille, Marseille will tackle fellow title contenders Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain in what promises to be a potentially decisive month for their championship ambitions.
"The fixture list means that we're going to face our direct rivals," coach Didier Deschamps told the club's television channel, OMtv.
"And when the teams take points against the smaller teams, these direct confrontations make the difference.
"We'll see what happens at the end of March. We'll know more about what we're capable of doing but it won't be over as there'll still be two months to play."
Marseille attacking midfielder Mathieu Valbuena (knee) resumed training on Thursday despite suffering an injury scare the day before, while forward Loic Remy (ankle) has declared himself fit to play.
Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, however, remains sidelined with the groin problem that forced him to miss the game against United.
Rennes, second, will go provisionally top with either a draw or a victory at Montpellier on Saturday evening.
Like Marseille, the Brittany club are on a four-game winning streak in Ligue 1 but Colombian striker Victor Hugo Montano, who left Montpellier last summer, says they are not daring to look too far ahead.
"We don't talk about the title among ourselves," he said. "Being where we are is great but we don't want any pressure."
PSG, two points off the pace in fourth, overcame Ligue 2 side Le Mans 2-0 in the French Cup after extra time on Wednesday.
Saturday sees the reigning cup holders visit Auxerre, who are just one point and one place above the relegation zone after a wretched run of 17 games without a win in all competitions.