Paris, Feb 25 (AP) Midfielder Mahdi Camara scored a first career hat trick as Brest won 3-0 at Strasbourg in the French league, keeping this season's surprise front-runner on course to qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

Camara scored twice in the first half for second-place Brest, an unheralded side from a port city in Brittany which has never finished higher than eighth in the top flight.

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Camara then coolly converted a penalty in the 60th minute.

He was involved in the buildup to the first goal, too.

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Camara did well to win the ball near the edge of the penalty area in the 33rd and, after a shot was charged down, he guided the rebound into the right corner from 20 meters with the aid of a slight deflection.

Seven minutes later, the former Saint-Etienne player showed good technique to control a cross from the right and finish neatly. He then sent goalkeeper Alaa Bellaarouch the wrong way from the spot.

The win moved Eric Roy's side 10 points behind league leader Paris Saint-Germain and guaranteed staying in second place after Sunday's league games.

Coach Patrick Vieira's Strasbourg slipped to 12th place.

That meant Nantes moved up to 11th on goal difference after earlier winning 1-0 at Lorient, which dropped down to 16th and the relegation/playoff spot in France's 18-team league.

Cameroon defender Jean-Charles Castelletto netted the only goal for Nantes early into the second half after being set up from the left by winger Moses Simon, who was a runner-up with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this month.

SUNDAY'S GAMES

Third-place Nice can close the gap on Brest to one point if it beats last-place Clermont at home.

PSG hosts improving Rennes in the first home game since Kylian Mbappé's decision to leave at the end of the season. (AP)

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