Nicolas Pepe's brace lifted second-placed Lille 2-1 past Marseille whose Italian striker Mario Balotelli scored in his debut in the 22nd round match of Ligue 1 on Friday.

The match was interrupted for around 40 minutes in the second half due to an exploding firework near the touchline.

Pepe moved Lille ahead with a spot kick before the break, and scored his 15th league goal of the campaign to seal the victory four minutes into stoppage time.

Despite the loss, Balotelli, who had failed to find the net earlier this season in fellow Ligue 1 club Nice, had many reasons to feel upbeat with a consolation goal shortly afterwards.

Marseille had thought about a deadlock-breaking goal from Nemanja Radonjic, but it was disallowed after a VAR review had shown Kostas Mitroglou to be offside.

Actually it was the visitors that went ahead first. Zeki Celik was fouled by Luiz Gustavo in the Marseille box, before referee Amaury Delerue pointed to the spot following another VAR consultation. Pepe stepped up to convert the resulting penalty.

Pepe had a chance of scoring another early in the second half, as he sped past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, only to see his shot cleared by Jorge Rolando in front of the line.

After having played more than 10 minutes in the second half, Delerue had to halt the match due to security concern after a firework coming down from the stand exploded. Marseille players Kevin Strootman and Jordan Amavi nearby seemed to be affected by the incident.

The match resumed around 40 minutes later. Marseille were whittled down to 10 players in the 67th minute when their playmaker Florian Thauvin was given a marching order.

Balotelli came off the bench seven minutes later. The Italian nodded home on a corner five minutes into injury time, but it was too late to cancel out high-flying Pepe's brace, with the second of the match through a counter-attack.

Lille cut the deficit from leaders Paris Saint-Germain, set to take on Rennes on Sunday, to 10 points. Marseille remain seventh, while possibly sliding further after several other matches of this round.

Monaco, just having enjoyed the return of their head coach Leonardo Jardim, will visit Dijon in a crucial battle to avoid relegation on Saturday.