Friday night follies leave Wales feeling bleu
Grand Slams are not always won by a team dominating all the others. Just look at Ireland last year.
The only requirement is to finish on the right side of the scoreline, by hook or by crook, in all five matches.
If as seems likely, France go on to win a third Grand Slam - and fifth title - of the Six Nations era, they will look back on Friday night in Cardiff as the one where they flirted with a faux pas but ultimately took a major step.
Three straight wins may not sound like much, but it has proved beyond this Tricolores side in the 26 months of Marc Lievremont's reign as coach, until now.
If that psychological barrier has been cleared, Lievremont looked like a man who knew the ramifications of blowing a 20-0 half-time lead would have led to a whole lot more being erected.
His next battle is against complacency, with Italy next up in Paris before England arrive at the Stade de France for the final game of the Championship on 20 March.
France head the Six Nations table after three wins from three. Photograph: Getty
Wales can only hope that when they host the Azzurri on the same day they still have something to play for.
Instead of a potential title on the line, they could - at the time of writing - conceivably need to beat the Italians to ensure they don't end up with the Wooden Spoon.
That finale would not sit easily with Warren Gatland's post-match claim that Wales "are not far away from being a very good side" and that "when it does click for us, it is going to be good".
But you can where he is coming from. When the head coach picks the bones out of another enthralling Six Nations encounter, he will reflect that for all France's first-half solidity and predatory finishing, his own side could still have won even from 20-0 down.
At half-time, it looked for all the world like Wales were staring at another hiding to rank alongside the one dished out by Australia in the autumn, completely puncturing the pre-match mood.
The bons viveurs had spilled out of the hostelries of St Mary's Street into a Millennium Stadium already awash with the sounds of Sospan Fach, Hymns and Arias and Bread of Heaven.
Welsh light-heavyweight boxing champion Nathan Cleverly was introduced to the crowd before kick-off, showing off his British, European and Commonwealth belts.
But it was France who boxed clever from the first bell, and Wales barely landed a punch as the visitors appeared to land two knock-out blows with interception tries in the sixth and 40th minutes.
That Wales, inspired once again by the brilliance of Shane Williams, not only rebounded off the ropes but took the contest into the final minute, justified the assertion of captain Ryan Jones afterwards that "you certainly can't question the heart and soul of this team".
The answers Wales need to find lie instead in more mundane, but fundamental, areas that tend to win or lose you big matches.
France dominated the set-pieces, where every line-out was an ordeal for the home supporters after Wales lost two in succession throwing to the middle in the 18th and 21st minutes.
They steadied the ship in the second half, when the impressive Bradley Davies - playing after the death of his mother last week - took a series of throws at the front, but the damage was done.
France also won the scrum battle as expected, earning three penalties from it in the first half as Wales were repeatedly pinged for collapsing.
But it was their blitz defence that helped established the Tricolores' commanding half-time lead. They smashed Wales back on the gain line, forcing them into a host of handling errors, and fly-half Stephen Jones initially struggled to counteract it with a wayward kicking game.
Jones's loop around Jamie Roberts and chip to the corner offered one route beyond the blitz, but it wasn't until the 24th minute that the fly-half opted for a chip over the top of the blue battalions rushing up.
The pressure France exerted yielded an early reward in James Hook's desperation to get the ball wide, only for his intended pass to Roberts to be gobbled up by Alexis Palisson for the opening try.
The second interception was again born of Welsh frustration at their inability to break free of the French shackles.
At 13-0 down and half-time beckoning, Shane Williams tried to keep an attack going by flipping a risky ball up from the floor, straight into the hands of Francois Trinh-Duc.
Wales were left frustrated at errors after losing two of their first three games. Photograph: AP
No wonder Shaun Edwards looked glum afterwards. "I was very proud that our defence kept France to no offensive tries," he said. "But teams are doing their homework on us and 30% of the tries we have conceded in the last 18 months have come from intercepts."
His fellow assistant coach, Rob Howley, sounded mortified that fallibilities in his department - attack - had spoiled all the advances made in defence.
"We have got one of the best defence coaches in world rugby [Edwards] and we have let him down," said the former Wales scrum-half. "If we hadn't given those two balls away, we would have won."
Perhaps, but Wales could still have negated those lapses if they had finished off two cleverly created try-scoring opportunities in the second half.
After 44 minutes, Hook's footballing skills and deft pick-up after Shane Williams's intelligent kick ahead took him clear of the defence only for his final looped pass to elude the grasp of Luke Charteris with the line at the lock's mercy.
Then, having fought back to 13-20, Wales looked poised to level the scores with France down to 14 men with Morgan Parra - or Morgan Parry as the stadium announcer cheekily called him the first time - in the sin-bin.
But with 11 minutes left, and the visitors the ones now on the ropes, Roberts opted to hang onto the ball rather than feed the supporting Hook to his right, the centre turning back inside before his pass eventually bounced off Hook's shoulder.
Wales didn't just make errors, they made them at crucial moments and in advantageous positions.
When France had conceded their sixth penalty in a row in the third quarter, Lee Byrne inexplicably sent a kick to the corner dead instead, shaking his head in disbelief.
A second misjudgement followed after 67 minutes when France conceded another penalty and Byrne again failed to find touch.
After failing to score a point in Parra's 10-minute absence, the steam appeared to have gone out of the Welsh revival, Frederic Michalak and Parra kicking France's only two penalties of the second half.
But suddenly sizzling Shane was picking up a loose ball, evading two tackles on the touchline and stepping inside Parra for a record-breaking 19th Championship try, and 50th in all for Wales.
Déjà vu? Surely Wales couldn't mount another last-ditch escape act so soon after their mugging of Scotland... could they?
The answer was a resounding 'non'. Unlike the Scots, who with only 13 men and the scores level, opted to kick the ball back to Wales from the kick-off rather than into touch for a draw, Michalak deliberately scuffed his re-start straight out, giving Wales no time to launch one last play before referee Jonathan Kaplan blew the final whistle.
France's relieved players did a lap of honour with the air of men that knew they had avoided the rugby equivalent of the guillotine.
Wales - after a similarly agonising defeat in Paris last year - may conclude the Friday night Six Nations experience has not been kind to them so far.