Pre-kick-off, the fans inside a typically buoyant Stade Velodrome rose to their feet to applaud legendary Pele, whose tragic passing was confirmed earlier in the day. One of the game’s all-time greats would have appreciated the quality in Marseille’s opener, which arrived in the 13th minute. Some lovely link-up play between Jonathan Clauss and Samuel Gigot saw the latter tee up Valentin Rongier for a fine close-range finish, in what was the midfielder's first goal of the season.
Marseille were finding their groove and nearly added a sumptuous second goal when Cengiz Under superbly dummied Chancel Mbemba’s cross for Alexis Sanchez in the area, but his shot was blocked by Anthony Rouault.
It was not all one-way traffic though, and the Violets should have levelled the scores when Fares Chaibi headed wide after Thijs Dallinga nodded the ball into his path from Branco van den Boomen's cross.
However, Philippe Montanier’s side pushed the self-destruct button as Rasmus Nicolaisen inadvertently headed Dimitri Payet’s innocuous-looking ball forward over his own goalkeeper to double the hosts’ advantage going into the break.
Any hopes of a Toulouse comeback were almost completely extinguished when Sead Kolasinac added a third following the restart. After latching onto Pape Gueye’s pass, the Bosnian danced through the Toulouse defence before poking the ball past Maxime Dupe.
Payet got himself in on the act for Marseille’s fourth with a caressed, side-footed strike into the top corner. The former West Ham man then donned a Father Christmas hat in the celebrations, in what was becoming some fine festive entertainment for the Olympians’ fans.
However, there was some scant consolation for the visitors when Branco Van den Boomen blasted home a penalty after Clauss brought down Veljko Birmancevic in the box.
Under added a fifth with a penalty at the opposite end of the pitch after Christian Mawissa brought down Bamba Dieng before Nuno Tavares powered home a fierce strike to score a sixth and claim Marseille’s biggest win of the season to date.
It was a dismal evening for Toulouse, who succumbed to a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 defeat and remained 13th.
Picking up where they had left off before the mid-season break, both teams showed plenty of attacking intent in the opening 10 minutes. Kasper Schmeichel looked particularly uncomfortable during that period, with his poor pass resulting in Jonathan Gradit striking wide from a promising position before the Dane had to pull out to stop himself from fouling Wesley Said. When Nice's goalkeeper couldn’t hold Przemyslaw Frankowski’s powerful shot and was beaten by Florian Sotoca, his blushes were spared by the offside flag.
At the other end, Brice Samba had a stand-off with Nicolas Pepe twice within the opening half-hour and came out on top on both occasions. Lens continued to push forward and Salis Abdul Samed danced through to get a shot off, although he was met with a reminder of Schmeichel’s quality as the goalkeeper adjusted superbly to palm the ball wide.
After Gradit received treatment for a bloodied mouth, Lens’ frustrations in front of goal continued as Said and Abdul Samed each saw a shot blocked before halftime.
Nice were the early aggressors in the second half, although they struggled to truly test Samba with Ross Barkley’s tame strike on the hour mark being comfortably gathered. The Englishman soon had an even better opportunity when Gaetan Laborde slipped him through, but he was once again left disappointed after dragging his attempt wide. Uncharacteristically, Lens often lacked the required precision to make the most of their own forays forward.
While Gradit and Sofiane Diop had some fiery exchanges towards the end, neither team looked like securing a winner in a draw that ended Lens’ five-game winning run but means they have still lost just one Ligue 1 match this season.
Nice can also see this as a positive point, as it extends their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches - although they only have 12 goals from as many home matches this season.