Two late tries gave France breathing room, but Uruguay gave the Rugby World Cup hosts a massive scare in Lille before Les Bleus won 27-12.
Uruguay scored the opening try, and pulled to within a point in the second half, before France pulled away to the huge relief of the home crowd.
“Courage to Uruguay,” France team manager Raphaël Ibañez said.
“They played with so much passion and heart. It was a hard match-up but it was the second win for us in this competition and this is most important
“It’s a World Cup game, it’s pretty serious business.”
France may well have picked up its second win of the tournament with a largely second-string team, but was far from convincing.
The hosts had made 12 changes from the team that beat New Zealand in the tournament opener — and it showed with a disjointed and error-strewn performance in which they conceded a whopping 15 penalties.
After Melvyn Jaminet slotted an early penalty the home side was stunned by Nicolás Freitas’s excellent pick-up and score, Los Teros’s French second division winger crossing for the opening try of the game in the corner to silence the crowd.
France hit back through Antoine Hastoy’s score and another Jaminet penalty to lead 13-5 at half-time, but was fortunate a Felipe Etcheverry score was ruled out for a marginal obstruction.
Uruguay may also feel hard done by after French lock Romain Taififenua was only shown a yellow card for a high tackle in another conflicting and confusing application of the head injury rule at this World Cup.
Uruguay, playing their opening game of the tournament, still managed to score next though, Baltazar Amaya finishing off a brilliant try that Etcheverry converted from the sideline to bring Uruguay within a point.
France hit back almost immediately from the restart with a charged-down try by Peato Mauvaka to relieve some of the pressure and nervousness that was building around the hosts efforts.
But Uruguay still held on and only a late try from Louis Bielle-Biarrey boosted the final score — although France did have two others ruled out.
“I am so proud of my team. I could not ask for a better team to lead,” Uruguay skipper Andrés Vilaseca said.
“Today, 10 minutes away from the [end of the] game, we were fighting against France, one of the best teams in the world.
“We fought for the whole game, that was key for us.
“This is only the beginning for us.”
Uruguay will have made plenty of friends with a hugely impressive performance that puts them in position to perhaps claim third spot in the group and an automatic spot at the next tournament.
Despite France failing to earn a bonus point, its victory over New Zealand should still be enough to see it top the pool — although vast improvements will be required before matches against Namibia and Italy.