Neymar notched his 10th goal of the season but a lethargic Paris Saint-Germain needed a second-half Gianluigi Donnarumma penalty save to secure a 1-0 win over Brest in Ligue 1 on Saturday.
The result takes PSG back to the top of the table and maintains their unbeaten start to the campaign under new coach Christophe Galtier.
PSG are two points clear of Lens, who won 1-0 against Troyes on Friday, but Marseille can move level with the champions if they win at home to Lille later on Saturday.
Despite the result, this was PSG’s least convincing performance of the season so far, coming against a Brest side who just two weeks ago lost 7-0 at home to Montpellier.
Galtier may reflect that he should have made more changes to his starting line-up, with this match falling in between their 2-1 midweek Champions League win over Juventus and a long trip to Israel to play Maccabi Haifa this Wednesday.
“It is always difficult to play on the back of a Champions League game. So much energy goes into these matches, physically as well as mentally,” Galtier told broadcaster Amazon Prime.
“I wouldn’t say we were trying to play within ourselves but there was maybe not the same desire to make the effort that we have seen so far this season.”
Nuno Mendes and captain Marquinhos were the only PSG players who started against Juventus to be rested, with Juan Bernat and Danilo Pereira coming in.
Galtier resisted the temptation to rest any of his superstar front three, saying beforehand that he had thought about leaving out Lionel Messi but realised that the Argentine “doesn’t need a breather”.
“I wanted to start our strongest attack to put the game to bed early and make substitutions sooner,” he reasoned.
Summer signings Nordi Mukiele and Carlos Soler spent the afternoon on the bench, while Spanish international Fabian Ruiz came on for his debut as a second-half substitute.
There was a lucky escape for Brest in the first half as defender Christophe Herelle was sent off for bringing down Neymar as the Brazilian advanced on goal.
VAR confirmed that Neymar was fractionally offside when Messi played the pass, and Herelle was allowed to stay on the field.
However, the home side scored on the half-hour with Messi again picking out Neymar, who controlled before sending a shot across goalkeeper Marco Bizot and into the far corner.
It was his eighth goal in seven league games this season. He also scored twice in the campaign-opening Champions Trophy against Nantes.
It was also a seventh assist for Messi, who has turned into a more reliable maker of goals than goal-scorer since leaving Barcelona.
The Argentine did hit the post from a Kylian Mbappe assist early in the second half, while the latter had a goal disallowed for offside just before the break.
Ultimately PSG were grateful to Donnarumma. The Italian dived to his left 20 minutes from time to keep out Islam Slimani’s penalty, awarded following a clumsy foul by Presnel Kimpembe on Noah Fadiga.