Paris (AFP) – Marseille strengthened their grip on second place in Ligue 1 as Dario Benedetto scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at lowly Nimes on Friday.

The 29-year-old Argentina international, who joined from Boca Juniors last year, has now scored 11 league goals this season.

Andre Villas-Boas’ Marseille now sit 11 points clear of third-placed Rennes and 10 points adrift of runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who host Dijon on Saturday.

Nimes forged ahead in just the fifth minute as they went in search of a fifth win in six Ligue 1 games, when Algerian youngster Zinedine Ferhat reacted quickest to score after Nolan Roux’s shot was saved by Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

The visitors wasted little time in getting back on level terms, though, as Bouna Sarr squared for Benedetto to tap in just five minutes later.

Marseille moved in front in the 36th minute, as Dimitri Payet released Benedetto, with the Argentinian lobbing the ball over Nimes ‘keeper Paul Bernardoni while the home defence appealed for an offside flag which never came.

Benedetto completed his first Marseille treble midway through the second period, latching onto a loose ball inside the box to lash home left-footed.

Lucas Deaux pulled one back for Nimes in injury time, but it was too little, too late for the hosts, who remain in the relegation play-off place.