After an extraordinary red card for tighthead prop Mohamed Haous for a punch on flanker Jamie Ritchie, the inspired Scots cut loose for a second-successive victory in the Six Nations after the win in Italy, a fourth straight home triumph over the French at BT Murrayfield.
What started as cagey affair was blown wide open by the sending off and the Scots took full advantage on a heart-warming day for Gregor Townsend’s men, who move up to third in the championship table.
With a large French support in full voice on a beautiful late winter’s aftenoon, a slow burn of a first-half slowly built towards a dramatic conclusion.
Les Bleus were put on the back foot early on when blindside Francois Cros was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Grant Gilchrist.
Adam Hastings got the scoreboard ticking for the home side with a couple of penalties but France hit back just after half an hour when their electric scrum-half Antoine Dupont put a delightful cross kick into the paws of right wing Damien Penaud, who scorched over in the right-hand corner and replacement Matthieu Jalibert, who was on due to Romain Ntamack suffering a head knocked over the conversion.
The fine try was the shining moment of a bitty stop-start game up until that point but things exploded into life minutes later when Scotland made a surge in the French 22 and Haoas had his moment of madness as he decided to clout man-of-the-match Ritchie in the face rather than tackle the flanker.
After an age of delay the Kiwi referee Paul Williams flashed the most blatant red card you could see in a game of rugby.
Hastings slotted over the ensuing penalty.
That opened the door to Scotland to find space and they stretched that lead as Stuart Hogg and Sam Johnson combined to put Maitland in for his first in the right corner.
Hastings, who was completely transformed from his troubles in Rome and in brilliant fettle, couldn’t quite make the difficult conversion.
Scotland had a dream start to the second half as Hogg showed brilliant instinct after a super turnover from the excellent Hamish Watson to set up Maitland for another diving score in the corner, with Hastings adding the extras to leave the French Gland Slam dream floundering.
France continued to threaten despite their numerical advantage with some end to end exchanges and Jalibert clawed back a penalty.
But Scotland remained patient and sub hooker McInally pounced on a French lineout error and showed his former back-rower’s pace to break away for his eight try in a Scotland jersey.
Hastings continued his charmed afternoon with a majestic conversion and the French now knew they were beaten. That didn’t stop them throwing everything at the last quarter and skipper Charles Ollivion claimed a deserved consolation try.
But the Scots were buoyant and almost scored again late on when Blair Kinghorn broke away but kicked the ball dead.
Glasgow centre Kyle Steyn came on for his first cap for Scotland, while Duncan Weir earned his first for three years off the bench.
The Scottish crowd rose in jubilant when the match was ended and left to toast the country’s finest hour since the 2018 Calcutta Cup.
SCORERS: SCOTLAND: Tries: Maitland 2, McInally; Cons: Hastings 3; Pens: Hastings 2.
FRANCE: Tries: Penaud, Ollivion; Cons: Jalibert 2; Pen Jalibert.
SCOTLAND: S Hogg; S Maitland, C Harris, S Johnson, B Kinghorn; A Hastings, A Price; R Sutherland, F Brown, Z Fagerson; S Cummings; G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining.
Subs: S McInally, A Dell, WP Nel, S Skinner, M Bradbury, G Horne, Weir, Steyn,
FRANCE: A Bouthier; D Penaud, V Vakatawa, A Vincent, G Fickou; R Ntamack, A Dupont; J Poirot, J Marchand, M Haouas, B Le Roux, P Willemse, F Cros, C Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt. Subs: P Mauvaka, J-Baptiste Gros, D Bamba, R Taofifenua, D Cretin, B Serin, M Jalibert, T Ramos
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)