La Rochelle picked up a priceless 19-12 home victory over Brive in the Top 14 on Thursday, creating a much-needed cushion at the bottom of the table.
A late penalty goal from Jean-Pascal Barraque also denied Brive a losing bonus-point as they are now just a point ahead of La Rochelle in tenth.
The hosts went in at the break 13-9 up after a penalty try and the boot of Peter Grant and Julien Audy handed them a nice lead. However, Brive were always in touch thanks to three penalties from Gaëtan Germain and a drop-goal from Nicolas Bezy in a vital fixture.
Germain opened the scoring in the sixth minute off the tee when La Rochelle were caught offside coming back from a visiting counter-attack. Grant though would level for the hosts wide out three minutes later when Brive flanker Petrus Hauman was harshly penalised at the breakdown.
Brive were back in front in the thirteenth minute after Leandro Cedaro was pinged for going off his feet by referee Pascal Pechambert, with Germain making no mistake as the visitors enjoyed positive early spells at Stade Marcel Deflandre. Importantly they had silenced the crowd.
That didn't last long though as sustained pressure on the Brive line led to Brive lock Dominiko Waqaniburotu being yellow carded following several team offences. Eventually, a series of strong home scrums resulted in a penalty try and with Grant's simple extras, La Rochelle were 10-6 in front.
It could have been more for La Rochelle on the half-hour mark when lovely handling from Grant and lock Romana Graham resulted in full-back Kini Murimurivalu carrying to within five metres. Unfortunately for the home fans, he lost the ball in contact as Brive survived the attack.
In fact the visitors played smart soon after as with fourteen men, Bezy slotted three points from the pocket before Waqaniburotu returned. That was chalked off before the break though when scrum-half Audy landed a penalty from wide out while Grant received treatment in back-play.
La Rochelle were dominant in the opening ten minutes after the interval as they turned the screw up front, with replacement Uini Atonio a real threat with ball in hand. Brive in turn were holding on by the skin of their teeth and sent on fresh legs of their own to weather the storm.
They did just that and admirably so, only leaking three points from a high tackle on 58 minutes which Audy successful sent over the posts.
Germain cancelled that out though in the 62nd minute when Brive secured a scrum penalty to put them back within losing bonus-point range.
But in a tight closing quarter the only further score came from the boot of replacement Barraque as La Rochelle claimed the four points that creates a five-point gap from Castres whilst their visitors head back to Brive with nothing to show for their efforts.
For La Rochelle:
Pen: Grant, Audy 2, Barraque
Pen: Germain 4
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Malietoa Hingano, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sireli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Jone Qovu, 6 Nicolas Djebaili, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Vincent Pelo.
Replacements: 16 Rassie van Vuuren, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Cobus Grobler, 19 Loann Goujon, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Eliott Roudil, 22 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 23 Uini Atonio.
Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Riaan Swanepoel, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Nicolas Bezy, 9 Damien Neveu, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Méla (c), 4 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 François Da Ros, 1 Karlen Asieshvili.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Simon Pinet, 19 Kieran Murphy, 20 Jean-Baptiste Péjoine, 21 Romain Sola, 22 Benito Masilevu, 23 Giorgi Jgenti.
Referee: Pascal Pechambert