Ben Mowen, Montpellier's Australian flanker (R), catches the ball during the French Top 14 rugby union match ASM Clermont-Auvergne vs Montpellier on August 29, 2014 at the Marcel Michelin Stadium in Clermont-Ferrand
Paris (AFP) - Fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc was the hero as Montpellier gained a shock 21-20 win at Clermont in the French Top 14 on Friday night.
Trinh-Duc kicked 18 of the visitors' 21 points with four penalties and two drop-goals.
And it was his final minute strike from just inside the Clermont half that proved decisive.
It was a thrilling comeback from Montpellier, last season's Top 14 semi-finalists, after they trailed by five points following a 10-minute period with 14 men following prop Nicolas Mas's sin-binning.
"We put far too much pressure on ourselves in our opening two home games (a 19-16 defeat to Racing-Metro and then 20-17 success over Grenoble) but this one we played without pressure," said Montpellier head coach Fabien Galthie.
"We were very tight in defence, very solid, we were good at the breakdown, our scrum was very good, our line-out too.
"After that it comes down to invisible things, we could have easily lost on the hooter."
Having lost their almost five-year-long unbeaten home record in the play-offs at the end of last season -- they fell 22-16 to Castres -- Clermont suffered a second home loss in quick succession.
But they could have few complaints after a performance of little inspiration and not much attacking endeavour either.
Had they got anything more than a losing bonus point, they would have gone top.
"It's the accumulation of imprecision and once again indiscipline," said Clermont captain Damian Chouly, the France back-rower.
"We've been saying it for three weeks but for three weeks we've not been fixing the problem.
"When we accumulate all that against a team of Montpellier's quality, it's hard to win."
The first half was a turgid battle with no quarter asked nor given.
Visiting scrum-half Benjamin Paillaugue gave Montpellier an eighth-minute lead from a penalty but Australian stand-off Brock James levelled up the scores three minutes later.
James then hit the post with his next kick at goal.
Clermont were struggling to break down a well-organised Montpellier defence and it was the visitors who almost opened the try-scoring.
A break from Trinh-Duc opened up space for winger Benjamin Fall down the left wing.
The ball was transferred to the other side of the pitch where Clermont were penalised for infringing at the break down, with South African-born English full-back Nick Abendanon, a new signing from Bath, shown a yellow card.
Paillaugue pulled the resulting penalty well wide. It was his second miss of the match and he handed over kicking duties to Trinh-Duc.
The 14 men handled their numerical disadvantage well and pushed down the other end of the field.
Just after Abendanon rejoined the fray, Clermont's forwards rumbled forwards and drove Samoan back-rower Fritz Lee over the tryline, although James missed the extras.
That gave Trinh-Duc the opportunity to cut the deficit to 8-6 on the stroke of half-time from 40-metres out.
The French international was straight to the fore after the restart, dropping a goal to push Montpellier into the lead.
A few minutes later he knocked over another long range penalty after Thomas Domingo entered a ruck from the side.
Montpellier were on top but the tide seemed to turn just before the hour mark as Mas was sin-binned for tackling Morgan Parra from an offside position, with James kicking the resulting penalty.
Yet moments later, Trinh-Duc landed another drop goal as the 14 men pushed their lead back out to four points.
But James landed three more penalties before Montpellier were back to full strength as Clermont took a 20-15 lead.
The visitors didn't give up, though, and after Trinh-Duc had reduced the deficit with his fourth successful penalty, he stepped up to knock over the match-winner.