Lazio booked their place in the Europa League Round of 32 after Marco Parolo’s stoppage-time header went in off Nice defender Maxime Le Marchand.
A draw would've been enough, but the victory means they have mathematically won the group with two games to spare.
The Aquile had a perfect European record going in, including a 3-1 victory at the Allianz Riviera, so a win here would mathematically ensure they topped the group. With Ciro Immobile, Wallace, Dusan Basta and Felipe Anderson sidelined, Luis Nani received his first start in a Biancocelesti jersey and Luis Alberto was tested in a deeper role. Mario Balotelli was surprisingly benched for Nice, but Marlon, Jean Michael Seri, Allan Saint-Maximum, Wylan Cyprien and goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale missed out.
Jordan Lukaku was fired up and ran to the by-line, but nobody was able to make the most of the pull-back. From the resulting corner, Adam Marusic saw his half-volley deflected just wide off Maxime Le Marchand.
Lukaku surged forward on another counter-attack, but Marusic hesitated and the chance went begging. On the stroke of half-time, the Belgian burst down the left with a step-over and nutmeg on the sorry Nice defender.
After the restart, Felipe Caicedo came sliding in and just unable to meet the Lucas Leiva cross from six yards, while Remi Walter blasted wide from a corner.
Wesley Sneijder saw Thomas Strakosha off his line and had an audacious attempt from distance palmed wide. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Senad Lulic were introduced, the former placing a fine assist across the six-yard box with nobody there to meet it.
The hosts had penalty appeals for a handling offence, but Patric seemed to hit the ball on to Christophe Jallet’s elbow.
Pierre Lees-Melou fired off target and Stefan de Vrij made a decisive block to prevent Plea tapping in from six yards on a Walter cross.
Balotelli was finally introduced for the last 10 minutes and blasted into Row Z from 30 metres out, but moments later was prevented from reaching a Walter pull-back by Luiz Felipe.
Just as it seemed to be heading towards a goalless draw, Marco Parolo forced a corner with his cross from the right. On the resulting set play, his header ricocheted off Le Marchand and past the stranded Benitez for Lazio’s last-gasp winner.
Lazio 1-0 Nice
Le Marchand og 92 (L)
Lazio: Strakosha; Patric, De Vrij, Luiz Felipe; Marusic, Murgia (Lulic 59), Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Lukaku (Parolo 73); Nani (Milinkovic-Savic 59); Caicedo
Nice: Benitez; Souquet, Dante, Le Marchand, Jallet; Walter, Mendy, Sneijder (Lusamba 66), Koziello (Tameze 86), Lees-Melou (Balotelli 80); Plea
Ref: Jesus Gil Manzano (ESP)