AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed the continuing impact of veteran forward Filippo Inzaghi as the reigning European champions closed in on fourth place in Serie A.
Inzaghi bagged a poacher's hat-trick as Milan won 4-1 at rock-bottom Livorno to move within two points of Fiorentina in the crucial final Champions League qualifying position.
La Viola had conceded an injury-time equaliser as they drew 2-2 at home to Sampdoria in a match between two of the three teams chasing that crucial fourth spot.
Fiorentina stay fourth on 60 points, two ahead of Milan, who are two ahead of Sampdoria with three matches still to play.
But it was Inzaghi's striking instincts which proved invaluable to Ancelotti's team.
He tapped home a first-half opener from Kaka's square pass in the box, despite looking suspiciously offside, and then added two close range headers after the break.
Inzaghi's recent return to form and fitness has coincided with Milan's late season charge for a place in Europe's premier competition next year.
“I don't want to talk about the past but often we forget that Inzaghi missed three months due to injury but when he has played from the start he's scored 16 goals in as many matches.
“He, like Kaka, is in great form. Right now they're forming a formidable partnership.”
With former three-time world player of the year Ronaldo sidelined with a long-term knee injury, teenage forward Pato feeling the strains of a tough introduction to European football and Alberto Gilardino short of form, Inzaghi's contribution has been vital.
With just two points to make up on Fiorentina and two home matches left to just one for the Florence-based club, Milan could even consider themselves favourties to snatch fourth spot.
The biggest drawback for them is that they have to play the Milan derby against Inter next weekend, with their cross city rivals looking to sew up the Serie A title.
“Both teams are looking to succeed with their primary objectives,” Ancelotti said about the crunch clash. “It's normal that Inter will want to win on Sunday but also we'll be giving it our all.”
A late strike from Daniele Gastaldello broke Fiornetina hearts after they had seemed set to win thanks to goals from Cristian Vieri and Adrian Mutu.
That result was ideal for Ancelotti.
“Certainly that result has given us a helping hand because qualifying for the Champions League does not just depend on us,” he said.
The title race is still alive as AS Roma beat Torino 4-1 at home to ensure Inter, who beat in-form Cagliari 2-1 at the San Siro, still need one more victory from their final three matches to claim a third straight title.
Claudio Pizarro opened the scoring for Roma from the spot and Mirko Vucinic and Alessnadro Mancini with two added the other goals during the first half as Roma cruised.
Inter scored through Julio Cruz and Marco Materazzi to keep on track.
Juventus secured their place in the Champions League next season with a 5-2 thrashing of Lazio.
They led 4-0 at the break following goals from Girogio Chiellini, Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet.
Lazio pulled two back through Rolando Bianchi and Sebastiano Siviglia before Chiellini's second rounded off the scoring.
At the bottom of the table Empoli escaped the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory at Genoa, leaving Reggina and Parma just above Livorno.
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