Castres reclaimed top spot in the Top 14 on Wednesday, with an impressive and dominant 32-14 win over ailing Stade Français.
The Tarnats' neartest rivals, Clermont, tumbled to a 33-24 defeat at Racing Metro, while Brive continued their domestic revival with a 19-14 win over Montauban.
Toulon also kept up the chase for a top six spot with an excellent 31-19 win over Montpellier.
Wednesday, January 27
Racing Metro 33-24 Clermont
Toulon 31-19 Montpellier
Brive 19-14 Montauban
Castres 32-14 Stade Français
1 Castres 60
2 Clermont 56
3 Racing Metro 52
4 Toulon 51
5 Toulouse 50
6 Perpignan 50
7 Brive 46
8 Stade Français 45
9 Biarritz 42
10 Montpellier 37
11 Montauban 33
12 CS Bourgoin31
13 Bayonne 25
14 Albi 20
Castres Olympique 32-14 Stade Français
This was a serious point proved for the home side, who have now refuted all those who dared to doubt their mission this season and are serious play-off contenders.
The truth will out at the end of the season, it would be a stunning shock if Castres were to beat, say, a full-strength Toulouse or Clermont in the Top 14 final. But the message is clear: underestimate Castres at your peril.
The win was all down to a monstrous performance by the forwards, who produced an extraordinary second-half effort that seemed to eat into the very soul of the team in pink. After a while, Stade's pack just didn't want to know.
The Parisian backs did though, and they had the lead at half-time, courtesy of a magnificent try finished off by Geoffrey Messina after no fewer than 19 passes.
Other than that, Lionel Beauxis and Ignacio Mieres added three penalties between them, with Romain 'Robocop' Teulet (apparently on account of his robotic punishment of trangressions) replying with three penalties of his own.
The crucial moment came five minutes after half-time, when Castres' pack drove Chris Masoe 15m from a line-out for the home side's opening score.
They never looked back after that, but the jewel in the crown of this performance will be the humiliation inflicted on the Parisian forwards at a scrum five minutes from time, which gave Casrtes a penalty try, denied Stade Français any sniff of a bonus point and leaves their season hanging precariously.
Racing-Métro 92 33-24 Clermont Auvergne
Clermont clearly came into this one suffering the after-effects of a Heineken overdose. By the time they had dropped the alka-seltzers and had another refreshing nap, Racing were 27-0 ahead!
Tries from Dan Scarbrough, Sereli Bobo and Henri Chavancy were all converted by Jonathan Wisniewski and added to by a Wisniewski drop goal and trademark Frans Steyn long-range penalty.
27-0! It was dreamland.
Steyn made it 30 with another penalty, while Seremaia Bai finally got the visitors on the scoreboard with one of his own, but it was still 30-3 with 20 to go.
Loic Jacquet scored for Clermont, with Bai converting. Wisniewski tried to calm the nerves with a penalty, but Gavin Williams dotted down in the corner for Clermont and Bai converted again.
Johnny Leo'o was yellow-carded for Racing as they found themselves unable to do anything bar tackle, and then Tasesa Lavea combined with Julien Malzieu and Anthony Floch for another Clermont try with six minutes to go, with Bai converting to make it 33-24. Could a miracle be on the cards?
It so nearly was. Lavea sent a long kick wide for Malzieu in space, but the bounce was wicked and eluded the tall winger's grasp. Racing grabbed the line-out ball and did very little with it until the siren went - and with it, Clermont's top spot.
RC Toulon 31-19 Montpellier HRC
Toulon began with two early tries, picking up where they had left off in the Amlin Challenge Cup against Castres last week, then fell asleep.
By half-time, the visitors had pulled the scores back to 14-13, with Federic Todeschini in good kicking form and the hosts looked muted - particularly with Sonny Bill Williams in the sin-bin.
Philippe Saint-Andre presumably did not mince his words at half-time, but it was only when Olivier Sarramea dropped a goal to give Montpellier the lead that Toulon spring to life once again.
Rory Lamont quickly reclaimed the lead with a try, converted by Felipe Contepomi who added a penalty, and it was flanker Olivier Missoup who scored the bonus-point try with four minutes to go.
This was not a fine victory, coming late against a weaker team and marred by indiscipline including the red card for lock Jocelyn Suta for a punch at the end, but it is five more points in the bag and Toulon are looking good for an end-of-season play-off spot.
CA Brive-Corrèze 19-14 Montauban
A try apiece, both of them in the first ten minutes, promised much from this game, but matches in Brive are rarely entertaining affairs these days.
Alexis Palisson converted Fabrice Estebanez's try - the week in which Estebanez was called up to the France squad - and kicked four penalties.
Len Olivier replied with two penalties for Montauban, and Cedric Rosalen's late penalty at least snaffled Montauban a bonus point.