Football - UPDATE 2-Soccer-Gignac earns Marseille win at nine-man Toulouse

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PARIS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Andre-Pierre Gignac's superb winner gave Olympique Marseille a 1-0 victory over nine-man Toulouse on Saturday and took them level with Olympique Lyon at the top of Ligue 1.

Halftime substitute Gignac, who returned from six weeks out with a broken foot on Wednesday, bent a powerful shot into the top corner in the 68th minute to earn Marseille's seventh away victory of the season.

It lifted Marseille to 35 points from 18 games, with Lyon top on goal difference before their clash on Sunday at third-placed Paris St Germain, who have 32 points.

"It is a beautiful story for me," Gignac told reporters after sinking his former side Toulouse, who were reduced to nine men on the stroke of halftime.

"It made it easier for us though they played with a lot of heart. Tonight, luck was on our side and we are level with Lyon. Everything's fine."

Champions Montpellier were due to meet 15th-placed Bastia later on Saturday, while 10th-placed Lille will be aiming for fifth place when they take on promoted Stade Reims.

Toulouse have won one and lost six of their last eight league games and lie 12th on 23 points.

"Regarding the energy we put in, it's hard for us. We began well but then we ruined it all," Toulouse coach Alain Casanova said.

The home team's ambition was undermined as early as the 28th minute when Cheik M'Bengue was dismissed for a rough tackle on Morgan Amalfitano.

Marseille won a penalty after 40 minutes when Franck Tabanou fouled Jordan Ayew. His older brother Andre Ayew took the spot-kick but it was saved by Toulouse keeper Ali Ahamada who produced a fine display.

Ten men became nine for Toulouse as Tabanou was red-carded for a violent challenge on Rod Fanni.

The visitors missed the chance to break the deadlock when Ahamada saved Joey Barton's volley and Lucas Mendes's powerful effort.

Gignac replaced Amalfitano at halftime but Marseille laboured until the striker celebrated his sixth goal in 11 appearances.

Jonathan Zebina had the best chance to rescue a point for Toulouse but Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda was equal to his header in the 74th. (Writing by Gregory Blachier, additional reporting by Jean Decotte in Toulouse; editing by Stephen Wood)

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