Lille boosted their Europa League prospects and pushed Le Mans closer to the Ligue 1 trapdoor with a hard-fought win at the Stade Leon-Bollee.
Modibo Maiga had given the relegation-threatened hosts hope in the 54th minute by cancelling out Tulio de Melo's first-half opener, but Yohan Cabaye's late penalty secured victory for Les Dogues.
The result left Le Mans eight points behind fourth-bottom St Etienne with four games remaining, and Les Verts could stretch that gap by winning at Marseille tomorrow.
The home team started brightly with Almen Abdi sending Maiga away down the left after two minutes, but his left-footed blast was deflected away to safety.
Arnaud Cormier's side found themselves behind 10 minutes later when De Melo met Emerson's cross from the left and connected with a fine volley at the near post which gave Didier Ovono no chance.
Ovono had to be on his toes again shortly afterwards to block a Gervinho shot following some neat build-up play from the visitors.
Mathieu Dossevi almost got Le Mans back in it in the 33rd minute when he burst through and got his shot away, but saw his effort drift just wide of the left post.
The hosts continued to press for the equaliser and again went close four minutes before the break through Sebastien Corchia's free-kick, the ball skimming the post on its way out with Mickael Landreau beaten.
Parity was restored nine minutes into the second period, however, when Maiga shrugged off the attentions of Franck Beria and slotted a left-footed shot past Landreau.
Maiga then turned provider for Anthony Le Tallec who was well placed in front of goal, but Landreau pinched the ball at the last moment to prevent Le Mans bagging a second.
Not to be outdone, Ovono pulled off a brilliant save midway through the second half to deny Gervinho, whose blast from just inside the area had looked destined for the net.
Le Mans could not find a winner, though, and were made to pay 11 minutes from time when the visitors were awarded a penalty for a foul on Gervinho by substitute Herald Goulon. Cabaye made no mistake, sending Ovono the wrong way from the spot.
There was still time for the Ligue 1 strugglers to muster another fine opportunity to grab a point when Cyriaque Louvion found himself with only Landreau to beat, but he was thwarted by the Lille keeper.