Jessy Trémoulière scored two tries including one two minutes from time as France snatched victory from England 18-17 in front of a world record crowd at the Stade des Alpes.
Les Bleues are now just one win away from the Grand Slam in the Women’s Six Nations, having made the difference in the dying seconds in front of 17,440 people – a world record for a women’s international.
England had seemed set to take the win in France thanks to tries from Abby Dow and Amy Cokayne.
But Trémoulière popped up at the death, holding off one tackle and rewarding some big French pressure late on.
England dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded with an early try from Dow. It came from some brilliant hands and tighthead prop Sarah Bern delivered the scoring pass for the simple finish. Katy Daley-McLean slotted the conversion from the touchline to make it 7-0.
France were taking some time to get into the game but in Pauline Bourdon and Cyrielle Banet they had a couple of livewires in the backline.
Their cause was helped when Rachel Burford was sent to the sin-bin for a late collision on Trémoulière as she kicked.
England coped well while down a player though, and France were not able to get on the scoreboard, although they were starting to get some joy at the breakdown.
However, just as England got back to 15, France worked their way over, twice threatening down the left and eventually sending Trémoulière in for the try. The full-back saw her conversion attempt clip the post and go wide but France were back to within two points.
And right on the stroke of half-time, the French took the lead for the first time with a score from fly-half Caroline Drouin.
Gaëlle Hermet started the move with the lineout steal and after France had piled forward, they spread it wide for Caroline Boujard. She was stopped just short but then found Marjorie Mayans who in turn fed Drouin. Trémoulière was again off-target with the difficult conversion but France led 10-5 at the break.
As they had in the first half, England started the second period well with a clever grubber from Daley-McLean proving just too strong.
But they soon had their second try as Amy Cokayne dotted down off the back of a rumbling maul. Daley-McLean’s conversion made it 14-10 to the visitors.
France responded with a powerful drive at a scrum, giving Trémoulière the chance to cut the deficit to a single point and she made no mistake.
England were able to control territory and with nine minutes remaining Daley-McLean slotted a penalty to push the lead back to four points after France had gone offside.
France took advantage of a mistake from the restart and almost had a try when Camille Boudaud got the ball over the line but was deemed to have knocked on when she picked up the ball.
The hosts kept threatening and almost got through again but Ellie Kildunne did brilliantly to get back and tackle Carla Neisen as she made a beeline for the whitewash.
But just as it seemed England would hold out, Trémoulière struck, giving France the win and putting them one win away from the Grand Slam ahead of next week’s trip to Wales.