Napoli made life very difficult for themselves and paid for complacency, but beat Olympique Marseille 3-2.
Elsewhere in the group, Arsenal won 1-0 away to Borussia Dortmund, so are joint top with Napoli on nine points. The Germans have six and Marseille zero. It also means Napoli can qualify with a draw away to Dortmund in the next phase, regardless of their result when Arsenal visit the San Paolo, as they have the upper hand in head-to-heads with the Germans.
The Partenopei knew this was a must-win match in an extremely tight Group F, especially as Marseille had lost all three in this group. Juan Camilo Zuniga, Giandomenico Mesto and Miguel Angel Britos were injured, but Marek Hamsik and Valon Behrami were surprisingly benched. The French side missed Lucas Mendes and Rod Fanni, opting for the Ayew brothers rather than Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Jose Maria Callejon had a volley charged down by Jeremy Morel in the opening minute, then Dries Mertens skimmed the far post with his angled drive.
However, Marseille took a shock lead after 10 minutes with Andre Ayew meeting a corner for the glancing header into the far top corner. He beat Christian Maggio in the air.
Mertens fired straight at Steve Mandanda and the goalkeeper smothered at Callejon’s feet on a Gokhan Inler through ball.
The pressure paid off from a corner. Mandanda performed a great reaction save on Federico Fernandez’s downward header, but it came out to Inler for a wonderful chest and volley from the edge of the box. The Swiss midfielder celebrated by displaying the jersey of teammate Mesto, who had surgery this week and will be out for at least four months.
Napoli turned the situation around completely when Inler won back possession in the centre-circle off Mathieu Valbuena, the Goran Pandev knock-down was deflected and Higuain watched the ball come down for a precise volley. They had gone from 1-0 down to 2-1 up in just 120 seconds.
Jordan Ayew fired a counter-attack straight at Pepe Reina, while Higuain was flagged offside during a very promising opportunity.
Mandanda rushed off his line to close down Higuain following a Kassim Abdallah error, but Florian Thauvin threatened by hitting the side-netting.
Napoli were increasingly complacent and paid the price, as Pablo Armero misjudged a Dimitri Payet cross and allowed Thauvin to volley in at the back post.
After that scare, they started pouring on the pressure again and Higuain completed his brace to restore the Napoli lead. Mertens sprung the offside trap and rolled across for Higuain to volley in from five yards.
Callejon’s free kick skimmed the upright, but Lorenzo Insigne came off the bench and within moments had cracked his curler against the far post.
It was still wide open to the end, as Armero flashed a ball across the face of goal after Payet fired just wide.
Napoli 3-2 Marseille
Scorers: A Ayew 10 (M), Inler 22 (N), Higuain 24, 75 (N), Thauvin 64 (M)
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Fernandez, Armero; Inler, Dzemaili (Behrami 90); Callejon, Pandev (Hamsik 66), Mertens (Insigne 83); Higuain
Marseille: Mandanda; Abdallah, N’Koulou, Diawara, Morel; Romao (Lemina 83), Cheyrou; Thauvin, Valbuena (Payet 57), J Ayew (Gignac 67); A Ayew
Ref: Karasev (RUS)