A few hours later, Monaco would reclaim first place, but victory for the hosts over tricky opponents underlined the fact that their title challenge is not yet over.
The Italian, of course, had his part to play for Lucien Favre’s side. With the outcome of the fixture far from secure, his clever movement opened up an alley for Arnaud Souquet to thread a neat pass through the fractured defence. Balotelli needed no second invitation to fire the ball home and provide his side with a valuable insurance goal.
It was the culmination of what had been a much-improved display from the Cote d’Azur outfit. Alassane Plea had given them an early lead, which was added to by Jean-Michel Seri, whose return from the African Cup of Nations was most welcome. Guingamp got one back in the second half, but could make no further headway.
Balotelli, who was replaced in stoppage time as a clock-killing exercise, took to Instagram after Sunday’s game to offer his congratulations to his team-mates, posting: “Well done to the guys!”
Earlier in the week, he had given a glimpse into the work he does to prepare himself physically for such situations. His video with Italian fitness trainer Stefano Brasetti shows him practising with the ball before making a dynamic sprint. On the second run through, the coach got a little more physical and ended up throwing the ball towards his charge in jest at the end.
There was time for the star man to unwind, too. He elected to watch Ghana’s Africa Cup of Nations clash against Egypt on Wednesday, but the country of his parents suffered a 1-0 defeat. Nevertheless, they had already qualified and Balo would have been pleased to learn they reached the semi-finals of the competition after beating DR Congo on Sunday at the same time he was in action.
Come on Ghana pic.twitter.com/yAUhcq2sen— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) January 25, 2017
But, as ever, there was family time, too.
Indeed, the striker showed his softer side – and a possible love of Frozen – as he played with daughter Pia. With a sticker of the popular movie on his head and a doll of Elsa, the lead character in his hands, he joked: “Frozen, always in the head.”
And two days later there was another post of Pia, this time dancing like she might be celebrating a goal her dad scored.
‘Super Mario’ is noted for his love of art his fans send him, and he posted his favourite example from this week. In it, the Nintendo plumber after which he is named is depicted in the style of the Italian – even sporting the forward’s fresh hairstyle sprouting out of his cap.
“I love this design,” Balotelli said.
But there is not too much time for fun as the season closes in on its two-thirds stage.
Next week, Nice have their biggest match of the season to date as they travel to Stade Louis II to face Monaco, a derby clash that will pit first against second. A victory in that match and the sky is the limit.