La Rochelle 19 (19)
Stade Toulousain 22 (19)
Leaders Stade Toulousain required a last-minute penalty from Nicolas Bézy to edge a tight victory away to relegation-threatened La Rochelle.
The win, which also featured Rupeni Caucaunibuca's maiden try for Stade, temporarily lifted the European champions 11 points clear at the summit of Top 14 as they recorded only their third away victory in the league this season.
Top 14 League Table
Thirty eight of the game's 41 points came in a pulsating first half, with Bézy's 79th-minute penalty the only score in the second period.
The result was harsh on La Rochelle, who gave everything in an effort to try and register a crucial home win against a Stade Toulousain side decimated by international calls, injuries and suspensions. But in the end Guy Noves' severely re-jigged side did just enough to earn their 12th league win of the season thanks to 21-year-old Bézy's calm head head.
Leading try and point-scorers in Top 14
La Rochelle were first on the board when full-back Greg Goosen slotted a sixth-minute penalty, and the recently signed South African added a second success on 16 minutes after Frédéric Michalak had replied in kind for the visitors.
Michalak, making his first start of an injury-ravaged season, again brought parity when he landed a 17th-minute drop-goal, and Toulouse then claimed the lead when Fijians Vilimoni Delasau and Caucaunibuca combined superbly for the latter to run in under the posts. Fly-half Michalak kicked the straightforward conversion to make it 13-6 to Stade, but La Rochelle hit straight back with Goosen's third penalty success of the evening as the former Racing-Métro player kept the scoreboard ticking over.
The next three-points came from an unlikely source as Stade's winger-turned-full-back Cédric Heymans landed a 45-metre drop-goal, but 13 minutes before the interval Kiwi lock Piula Faasalele reignited the home support when he touched down for his third league try of the season - and fifth in all competitions.
Goosen maintained his 100% record to bring the two sides level once more - this time at 16-16 - before both sides lost a player each to the sin-bin in quick succession. First off was La Rochelle centre Seru Rabeni when he saw yellow for a 34th-minute high tackle on Rémi Lamerat, which also enabled Michalak to kick a 40m penalty.
Shortly after Goosen missed his first kick at goal of the evening before Lamerat was then yellow-carded on 38 minutes, paving the way for Goosen to make amends and once again bring parity on the scoreboard.
It remained 19-19 up to the break and the second period became an increasingly tense affair as both sides squandered chances to claim the lead. Michalak was off target with a 48th-minute penalty and a 54th-minute drop-goal, while Goosen was similarly wayward with two penalty attempts of his own - in the 61st and 70th minutes.
Noves then introduced Bézy for Argentine scrum-half Nicolas Vergallo with 10 minutes to go, switching the 21-year-old to fly-half as Michalak moved to No 9. It proved a telling substitute in the end, with youngster going on to kick the decisive penalty just one minute from the end as he took his season's points total past the 50 mark.
||Michalak (2), Bézy