Clermont will head into their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leicester on the back of a defeat after they went down 26-24 away to Brive on Friday.
Brive were 23-10 ahead with just fifteen minutes remaining at Stade Amédée Domenech before a late surge from Clermont saw them go close.
However, the late tries from Damien Chouly and Naipolioni Nalaga were not enough as Gaetan Germain's preceding penalty proved critical.
Brive had scored two tries in the first-half, coming via wing Elia Radikedike and full-back Germain, as Clermont went in at the break 20-3 adrift.
Clermont then regrouped as a brace from Nalaga and one from Chouly put them agonisingly close to completing the comeback in a half that saw Goderzi Shvelidze and Patrick Barnard yellow carded in the 46th and 49th minute respectively.
Les Jaunards' defeat now opens the door up to the chasing Toulon and Montpellier, who face Toulouse and Bayonne, looking to go top.
Tries: Radikedike, Germain
Con: Germain 2
Pen: Germain 4
Yellow card: Nathan Hines (four minutes)
Tries: Nalaga 2, Chouly
Con: Parra, Delany 2
Yellow card: Goderzi Shvelidze (46 minutes), Patrick Barnard (49 minutes)
Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Andrew Mailei, 11 Elia Radikedike, 10 Riaan Swanepoel, 9 Jean Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisaro Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Karlen Asieshvili.
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Simon Pinet, 19 Hugues Briatte, 20 Thomas Sanchou, 21 Romain Sola, 22 Alfifeleti Mafi, 23 Patrick Barnard.
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Aurelien Rougerie, 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Loic Jacquet, 19 Elvis Vermeulen, 20 Thierry Lacrampe, 21 Michael Delany, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Clement Ric.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal