PARIS - Vitinha scored his first goals for Olympique de Marseille as they thrashed struggling Troyes 3-1 to move into second place in the Ligue 1 standings on Sunday.
The Portuguese striker, who joined in January, netted either side of the interval with Cengiz Under also on the scoresheet to put Igor Tudor's side on 64 points with seven games left.
They trail leaders Paris St Germain by eight points after the capital side beat RC Lens, now third on 63, 3-1 on Saturday.
Monaco are fourth on 61 points after beating Lorient 3-1 at home, as the race for second place and direct qualification for the Champions League group stage heats up.
Vitinha, who had not scored in his first six matches since joining from Braga on Jan. 31, grabbed an early goal to give OM a dream start.
They took charge in the second minute when Vitinha smashed a beautiful shot under the bar after powering into the area.
The hosts doubled the advantage four minutes before the break with Under finding the back of the net from inside the box after being set up by Valentin Rongier.
Vitinha was at it again in the 64th minute, tapping home after Sead Kolasinac's header hit the post and bounced into his path.
The result left Troyes, who scored a stoppage-time consolation goal through Mama Balde, in 18th place on 21 points, 10 from the safety zone.
Lille are a distant fifth on 55 points after a 2-1 comeback win at home against Montpellier.
Earlier on Sunday, Nantes coach Antoine Kombouare was left fuming after a 2-1 defeat at AJ Auxerre that left the Canaries, who have reached for the French Cup final, in 15th place, two points above the relegation zone.
"Right now, the players are not concerned about maintaining the team (in Ligue 1)," he said.
"We’re going to the Stade de France in two weeks (for the French Cup final). But they (the players) prefer us to be sliding down to 17th place to wake up. I’m up for it. They like to play with pressure, so let’s have a laugh. Today, I heard the Auxerre fans saying that we have a good team, but no, we’re a shit team.”
The bottom four teams will be relegated at the end of the season as Ligue 1 is cut down from 20 to 18 teams.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)