Saint-Etienne won 1-0 at former champion Montpellier on Friday to move provisionally into sixth place in the French league.

Courbis took the reins on Monday following the resignation of Jean Fernandez but he could not inspire HSC to victory as a goal from Max Gradel handed the visitors all three points.

The 60-year-old saved Montpellier from relegation to the French third division towards the end of the 2006-07 season but, after leading the club into Ligue 1, he had to make way for title-winning boss Rene Girard in order to complete a two-year prison sentence for his role in a corruption scandal concerning former club Marseille.

And it looks like he will face another relegation battle with his side just five points above the drop-zone after nine league games without a win. Franck Tabanou had the first effort of the night as he was found by Francois Clerc but could only fire into the side-netting.

The midfielder was enjoying a lively start and saw a volley saved by Geoffrey Jourdren before he shot wide in the 29th minute.

Benjamin Corgnet then fired over the bar in the dying moments of the half and Montpellier will have been grateful to get in level at the interval. Jourdren was called on to make a save from Corgnet in the 47th minute before the home side eventually found their feet and Morgan Sanson missed the target from 25 yards.

Souleymane Camara saw another effort go wide for Montpellier before St Etienne got the goal they deserved with 15 minutes to play. Brandao crossed into the area where Faouzi Ghoulam flicked the ball on towards Gradel at the far post and the Ivorian volleyed home.

Camara headed inches over the bar in the closing stages as the visitors searched for a second but one was enough to move them up to fourth ahead of the rest of the weekend's games.

The Associated Press was used in this report.