Five penalties from Jonny Wilkinson proved enough for Toulon to claim a 15-9 win over Perpignan at Stade Felix Mayol on Friday.
Toulon were jeered off the pitch even though the result moves the European champions clear at the summit of the Top 14 standings. The lack of the expected bonus point means that Montpellier, Clermont and Toulouse are all within striking distance.
Perpignan on the other hand will be delighted by their losing bonus point, snatched despite conceding three yellow cards and missing a number of first-choice players due to international call ups.
Wilkinson kicked three penalties to give Toulon a 9-3 lead at the end of a first half characterised by USAP's brave defence and multiple handing errors from the hosts.
Even when the Catalans were reduced to 13 men for eight minutes- after David Marty's rush of blood to the head, followed quickly by Nicolas Durand sin-binned for a cynical infringement - the European champions were unable to break down their visitors' resolute defence.
Wilkinson added two more three pointers after the break to give Toulon breathing space but despite a third yellow card for Perpignan, this time to Guillaume Vilaceca, it was they who scored next, before Ecochard added a bonus-point clinching third kick in the 76th minute.
Clermont will look to take over top spot when they host erratic Racing-Metro at the Marcel Michelin stadium on Saturday although free-scoring Toulouse will also expect to take maximum points against newly-promoted Oyonnax.
Pens: Wilkinson 5
Pens: Ecochard 3
Yellow cards: Marty, Durand,Vilaceca
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Alexis Palisson, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 David Smith, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Pierrick Gunther, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 Rudi Wulf, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Xavier Chiocci.
Perpignan: 15 Joffrey Michel, 14 Watisoni Votu, 13 David Marty, 12 Wandile Mjekevu, 11 Richard Haughton, 10 Nicolas Durand, 9 Tom Ecochard, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Jean-Pierre Perez, 6 Bertrand Guiry, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Guillaume Vilaceca, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Romain Terrain, 1 Sebastien Taofifenua.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Delonca, 17 Jean Baptiste Custoja, 18 Nicolas Rabat, 19 Karl Chateau, 20 Tim Menzel, 21 Jens Torfs, 22 Romain Fernandez, 23 Giorge Jgenti.
Referee: Sébastien Clouté