Wales were starved of possession at the Stade de France
France: (23) 32
Tries: Dominici, Nallet
Cons: Skrela (2)
Pens: Skrela (5), Beauxis
Wales: (14) 21
Tries: Popham, Shanklin, Robinson
Cons: Jones (3)
France marched confidently towards a RBS Six Nations Grand Slam by coming from behind to win a thriller in Paris.
Wales scored early tries through Alix Popham and Tom Shanklin, but Christophe Dominici and Lionel Nallet crossed as France built a 23-14 half-time lead.
France's David Skrela took his personal tally to 19 points with two second-half penalties as Wales missed two attempts.
Jamie Robinson scored Wales' third try on 75 minutes, but a Lionel Beauxis penalty took France clear again.
Wales captain Stephen Jones, under considerable pressure after a barrage of press criticism for his performance against Scotland two weeks ago, wasted a great chance to settle Welsh nerves by missing a second-minute penalty.
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Opposite fly-half Skrela was less wasteful as he opened the scoring nine minutes later, but the lead lasted barely a minute as Popham scored Wales' first try of the campaign.
Re-called lock Ian Gough won clean ball from a short line-out and Popham, standing in the scrum-half position, burst down the blind-side and powered through Dominici's tackle to stretch over the line.
And after waiting nearly three hours for a try, Welsh supporters were celebrating again three minutes later as Shanklin scored under the posts.
Popham's early try gave Wales hope of an unlikely win
Jones chipped over the France defence inside their 22, James Hook gathered cleanly and managed to free his hands under pressure to feed centre partner Shanklin on his shoulder.
Jones kicked his second conversion as Wales looked anything but Wooden Spoon contenders.
With boos ringing around the Stade de France, the hosts knew they needed to hit back quickly, and they did so in style.
Skrela's second penalty cut the deficit to 14-6 and then a piece of world-class running from Dominici 10 minutes later brought France to within a point.
The diminutive winger cut inside from the left, leaving a trail of Wales defenders on their backs, and grounded the ball over the tryline despite a desperate lunge from Wales full-back Lee Byrne.
The France comeback was complete six minutes before half-time when lock Nallet burrowed over after sustained pressure in Welsh territory.
Skrela added the conversion and then a third penalty to give France a 23-14 interval lead.
Shanklin almost gave Wales a perfect start to the second half but he was held yards short after a superb counter-attacking move from deep.
Skrela's superb kicking continued as he added two penalties, but Wales were wasting opportunities to hit back as Jones, and then Hook, missed kickable chances.
Skrela caught the Wales disease by putting a penalty wide, but with France continuing to dominate possession, the miss was less significant.
Mike Phillips' introduction for Dwayne Peel on 64 minutes corresponded with a rare period of Wales possession, and the visitors finally found a chink in the home defence to score their third try.
Jones beat Skrela after quick line-out ball and offloaded to Robinson, on for the injured Mark Jones, who showed great pace to beat the last defender and score under the posts.
Jones' conversion reduced the deficit to eight points, but Beauxis put the result beyond doubt with a sixth penalty in the final minute.
France: Poitrenaud, Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Dominici, Skrela, Mignoni, Milloud, Ibanez, Mas, Nallet, Thion, Betsen, Bonnaire, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Beauxis for Skrela (75), August for Ibanez (75), Marconnet for Mas (62), Harinordoquy for Vermeulen (67).
Not Used: Lamboley, Yachvili, Rougerie.
Wales: Byrne, S. Williams, Shanklin, Hook, M. Jones, S. Jones, Peel, Jenkins, Rees, Horsman, Gough, A. Jones, Popham, M. Williams, R. Jones.
Replacements: Robinson for M. Jones (46), Phillips for Peel (64), R. Thomas for Rees (72), D. Jones for Horsman (53), Cockbain for Gough (70), J. Thomas for Popham (66).
Not Used: Sweeney.
Ref: Tony Spreadbury (Bristol).