Gaetan Charbonnier's late double lifted Montpellier to their fourth straight home win in Ligue 1 at the expense of battling Lorient.
Charbonnier struck 11 minutes from time and again at the death to condemn Lorient to a first defeat in six on their return from the winter break.
The win takes Montpellier into eighth place in the standings, two points behind Lorient who drop to sixth.
Reigning champions Montpellier have been disappointing in the defence of their title this season and optimism was muted in the home camp tonight, with talismanic midfielder Younes Belhanda away on African Nations Cup duty with Morocco.
Yet the hosts began brightly and 17 minutes were on the clock when Souleymane Camara got into the area and rounded goalkeeper Fabien Audard only for Gregory Bourillon to step in and clear.
Four minutes later Montpellier's John Utaka attacked down the left and cut into the area, beating Bourillon before poking the ball into the side netting.
After soaking up the earlier pressure Lorient almost went in front in the 22nd minute but Jeremie Aliadiere's effort was ruled out for offside.
Just after the half-hour Montpellier's Emmanuel Herrera went close twice inside a minute. First his powerful shot from the edge of the area found the side netting, then, after being set up by Daniel Congre, the Argentinian inexplicably headed wide when unmarked six yards out.
The hosts were on the attack again in the 59th minute, Utaka's cross finding Camara whose right-footed half-volley was cleared away by defender Maxime Barthelme.
In the 65th minute Lorient went close when Aliadiere feinted to shoot before rolling the ball into the path of Julien Quercia, who saw his shot well saved by Laurent Pionnier.
The breakthrough arrived in the 79th minute after Lorient lost possession in midfield and Remy Cabella capitalised, releasing Charbonnier who ran on to slot the ball through Audard's legs.
The hosts made sure of the points in stoppage time when Anthony Mounier delivered a cross from the left and Charbonnier arrived on cue to bury a superb right-footed volley at the far post.