SS Lazio and Napoli closed the gap on leaders AC Milan to just three points with victories on Sunday, but Juventus failed to keep pace as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Chievo.
Lazio edged out Udinese 3-2 in a thrilling match decided by Christian Zapata’s own-goal two minutes from time.
Napoli looked to be heading for a frustrating stalemate against Lecce until Edinson Cavani struck deep into stoppage-time to thrash a stunning winner from 25m into the top corner.
Juventus, on the other hand, were the victims of a late equalizer when Sergio Pellissier popped up at the back post to stroke home in stoppage-time.
The game of the day came in Rome, where Lazio had taken the lead twice through Hernanes and -Giuseppe Biava, but were pegged back on each occasion by Alexis Sanchez and German Denis, but Zapata inadvertently headed a corner past his own goalkeeper under pressure from Libor Kozak to give the home fans a pre-Christmas treat.
Lazio got off to a dream start as Brazilian Hernanes gave them the lead after just two minutes, squeezing a shot from 20m inside the post from Tommaso Rocchi’s pass, although Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was perhaps taken by surprise.
Lazio struck the woodwork on 25 minutes when Hernanes beat Handanovic for the second time, but his shot crashed back off the post.
However, on 49 minutes the visitors were level as Lazio’s defense went to sleep. Di Natale crossed from the right and Sanchez, one of the smallest players on the pitch, ghosted into the six-yard box to head home unmarked.
Yet three minutes later, Lazio were back in front when Biava volleyed home from close range after Andre Dias headed a corner back into the danger area.
The lead did not last long, though, as Di Natale crossed from the right again and substitute Denis headed home from 15m with Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera wrong-footed.
However, Zapata’s unfortunate late intervention handed the hosts all three points.
The other two matches ended in major drama.
Napoli had toiled throughout the game without enjoying much success, but once again they scored in the “Mazzarri zone,” so dubbed because Walter Mazzarri’s team seem to always score in the last 15 minutes of matches.
Cavani struck just moments after Gianluca Gava saved Napoli by clearing Daniele Corvia’s shot off the line.
There was late drama in Verona too.
Juventus were handed a let-off after Giorgio Chiellini felled Davide Moscardelli in the penalty area, with goalkeeper Marco Storari saving Michele Marcolini’s spot-kick after 15 minutes.
Chievo were made to pay when Fabio Quagliarella scored a brilliant acrobatic overhead volley on 31 minutes.
Juve hit the woodwork twice through Frederik Sorensen and Milos Krasic, but had Manuel Giandonato sent off for bringing down Frenchman Kevin Constant as he bore down on goal.
Juve had to hang on for 40 minutes, but couldn’t quite manage it as Pellissier popped up late on to snatch the draw.
In Sunday’s other matches, Bari drew 1-1 with Palermo and Catania defeated Brescia 1-0, while the clash between Parma and Bologna finished goalless.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER