Roma took advantage of second-placed AC Milan being held 1-1 at home by Livorno to catch up with them in Serie A on Sunday by beating basement side Siena 2-1 with the help of a remarkable Stefano Okaka goal.
Okaka, who is expected to join Premier League side Fulham on Monday, back-heeled a cross from fellow substitute Adrian Pit to seal victory in the 88th minute.
Second-placed Milan’s hopes of taking a big chunk out of Inter Milan’s lead after their city rivals’ visit to Parma was snowed off were dashed by Cristiano Lucarelli’s 53rd-minute goal after Massimo Ambrosini had put them in front just before half-time.
Milan have 41 points from 21 games, eight points less than Inter, at the end of a disappointing eight days in which they were knocked out of the Italian Cup by Udinese and lost last weekend’s derby to Inter 2-0.
Third-placed Roma also have 41 points although they have played one game more after beating Siena despite being depleted in attack, with captain Francesco Totti, Luca Toni and Mirko Vucinic all unfit.
At the San Siro Milan tried to seize the initiative from the outset.
But Livorno were well organised and proved difficult to break down until Ambrosini hooked in with the help of a blunder by keeper Francesco Benussi, who gifted the midfielder the ball in front of goal when he flapped at a David Beckham cross.
Ronaldinho had come closest before that when he thumped the post with a right-footed strike from the edge of the area in the 36th.
Both sides had penalty appeals denied after Lucarelli poked in a mis-hit Claudio Bellucci shot and Benussi produced a fine save to repel an Ambrosini header, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar knocked a good chance over.
“We lacked that little something,” Milan coach Leonardo said.
“We went into the game after these (bad) results and we needed a good performance.
“We didn’t play a great match but it wasn’t bad either. We didn’t take our chances against a side that came to defend.”
John Arne Riise, who scored a stoppage-time winner against Juventus last weekend, gave Roma a deserved lead with a spectacular left-footed volley into the far corner in the 29th minute.
The visitors responded four minutes before half-time when Simone Vergassola touched in the rebound of a Mato Jajalo effort only to come away empty handed because of Okaka’s ingenuity.
“The goal was really satisfying. I wanted to put on a beautiful performance,” Okaka said.
“I’m going to England to improve myself. This opportunity came up and I couldn’t say no.”
Fiorentina, rocked by this week’s news that Romania forward Adrian Mutu had failed drugs tests, drew 2-2 at 10-man Cagliari.
Midfielder Marco Marchionni tucked away a deflected cross to put them ahead in the eighth minute.
Cagliari’s Andrea Lazzari charged into the area and unleashed a thunderbolt to equalise in the 36th minute and in the 48th defender Davide Astori headed in for the Sardinian side, who had Andrea Cossu sent off for a second yellow card soon after.
Stevan Jovetic was on target to earn his side a point on the hour.
Sampdoria, who denied reports they plan to loan injured fan favourite Antonio Cassano after tension with coach Luigi Del Neri, beat second-from-bottom Atalanta 2-0 at home.
Angelo Palombo drove in from outside the box in the 36th and Giampaolo Pazzini found the net from short range just before the break.
Chievo and Bologna and Catania and Udinese both battled out 1-1 draws.
Troubled Juventus face Lazio at home later on Sunday in new coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s first game in charge after the Turin club sacked Ciro Ferrara on Friday.