Kylian Mbappe and Moise Kean were on target for Paris Saint-Germain as they profited from Andreaw Gravillon's costly red card to beat Lorient 2-0 in Wednesday's Ligue 1 clash.
PSG entered the game four points adrift of Lille following the league leaders' earlier 2-0 win at Dijon and took time to get going, even if Ander Herrera did come closest to a first-half breakthrough when striking the crossbar.
However, Gravillon was dismissed for bringing down Mbappe early in the second half at the Parc des Princes and the PSG forward brushed himself down to convert the subsequent penalty.
Kean fired in a second goal nine minutes later and PSG were under little threat from that point on as they climbed to second, ahead of Lyon, going into Sunday's huge top-of-the-table showdown with Lille.
Yoane Wissa got in behind Danilo Pereira early on but the makeshift PSG defender blocked the shot - sustaining an injury in the process that forced him off - and Sergio Rico had a simple save to make.
Lorient put three goals past Nimes last weekend to end a four-game goalless losing run and they wasted another good chance to open the scoring in Paris, Terem Moffi racing clear but pulling his shot wide of the far post.
PSG hit the crossbar late in the first half through Herrera's curler, though they only had to wait until six minutes into the second period to open the scoring thanks to Mbappe's 11th league goal of the campaign.
Mbappe burst past Gravillon and was brought down by the visiting defender, who was issued a straight red card and further punished by his opponent drilling the penalty underneath Paul Nardi.
A big chance went begging for Mbappe almost instantly but PSG again carved their opponents open with an hour played, a fine team move culminating in Rafinha releasing Kean to convert past the onrushing Nardi.
Layvin Kurzawa joined Herrera in hitting the crossbar at the end of a counter 10 minutes from time but it mattered little as Lorient could not muster a response, Adrian Grbic coming closest to beating Rico when hitting the post late on.
What does it mean? PSG back on track
Following Sunday's surprise 1-0 loss to Lyon, this was the first time PSG had entered a game outside of the top two this far into a season since matchday 23 in 2016-17 when also third.
Thomas Tuchel's men quite simply could not afford to drop more points and, while not always at their best, did what was required to pick up a 10th straight league win over Lorient.
Lille may remain a point better off but this was a positive day on the whole for the reigning champions as fellow title contenders Marseille and Montpellier lost, while Lyon were held 2-2 at home to Brest.
Rafinha pulls the strings
With Marco Verratti named among the subs, Rafinha was selected in a midfield three alongside Herrera and Idrissa Gueye.
The former Barcelona man played a great ball to Mbappe in the build-up to the penalty and slotted in Kean for the second. He played four key passes in all, a joint-high alongside Herrera.
Gravillon error costly
Lorient more than held their own in the first half and would have fancied their chances of becoming the latest side to take points off PSG.
Gravillon effectively put paid to those hopes when bringing down Mbappe for the penalty, which proved the turning point. The centre-back may only have been on the field for 51 minutes, yet no visiting player conceded more fouls than his two, level with Jerome Hergault.
PSG travel to Lille on Sunday in a huge clash at the top of Ligue 1, while Lorient host Rennes on the same day.