April 24 (Reuters) - Olympique de Marseille took another step towards securing direct qualification for the Champions League when a late Gerson goal earned them a 1-0 win at Stade de Reims in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
Gerson struck seven minutes from time when he fired home with an angled shot from Dimitri Payet's pass to put second-placed Marseille on 65 points with four games left.
They lead Stade Rennais, who destroyed Lorient 5-0 earlier on Sunday, by six points.
Monaco, in fourth place, are also on 59 points after their 4-1 win at St Etienne on Saturday.
The top two qualify directly for the Champions League group stage while the third-placed side will play in the third qualifying round.
Marseille made a bright start as Arkadiusz Milik's 30-metre attempt was parried by Predrag Rajkovic on eight minutes.
But the game failed to spark into life until late in the second half, when Payet found Gerson in the box for the Brazilian to score his sixth league goal this season.
Racing Strasbourg lost ground in the race for a Champions League spot as they were beaten by Lille 1-0 away, with last year's champions prevailing with a late goal by Mehmet Celik.
Strasbourg are now sixth on 56 points, one behind fifth-placed Nice.
Paris St Germain secured their 10th French top flight title on Saturday with a 1-1 home draw against RC Lens, who lie in seventh spot on 54 points.(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)