Paris - Australian star Matt Giteau led French and European champions Toulon to a scrappy, bad-tempered 21-18 win over Oyonnax on Friday to take pole position in the Top 14.
The flyhalf played the decisive role in his team's two tries as Toulon avenged their shock 25-22 loss at Oyonnax last season.
Oyonnax picked up the consolation of a losing bonus point but they will count themselves unfortunate not to have claimed another famous win after leading 18-14 with 10 minutes left.
"They scored with the only chances they had," Oyonnax wing Jeff Coux told Canal Rugby.
"It's a real shame because there was a real burst of energy. We are disappointed."
Oyonnax, based in a small town in the shadow of the Alps with a population of just 23,000, enjoyed the early initiative.
Flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta, who kicked the winning drop goal in last year's win, was on target with an early penalty which in turn was quickly cancelled out by Toulon's Australian winger James O'Connor.
Toulon's star-studded pack was under constant pressure and prop Xavier Chiocci was yellow-carded in the 18th minute.
Uncharacteristically, Urdapilleta fluffed two penalties before recovering his accuracy with a successful kick for 6-3.
O'Connor levelled it up again and the champions made the home side pay for failing to hammer home their dominance up front with the only try of the first period.
Samoan winger David Smith, just one of only two uncapped players in the Toulon starting XV, burst through a huge gap and muscled past three defenders.
He was held up but the ball was recycled to Giteau whose quick-thinking crossfield kick fell into the waiting arms of South African lock Juanne Smith to dot down.
O'Connor missed the extras before Urdapilleta knocked over a penalty on the stroke of half-time to cut the deficit to 9-11.
Urdapilleta then succeeded with an early second-half penalty after Carl Hayman had been penalised for not releasing the ball for a 12-11 lead which became 15-11 on the hour mark courtesy of a confident drop goal.
The home side then appeared to give the champions the advantage when Samoan lock Maurie Fa'asavalu, a convert from rugby league, was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Giteau.
O'Connor popped over the resulting penalty but Oyonnax hit back to lead 18-14 with another Urdapilleta penalty.
Giteau then stepped up to play another crucial role in Toulon's second try, running at pace into the Oyonnax defensive line, releasing fellow Australian Drew Mitchell to burst through and score.
O'Connor added the extras for 21-18 with 10 minutes left and the champions clung on to take top spot ahead of Saturday's matches.