Substitute Giampaolo Pazzini scored twice and won a penalty on a dream debut as Serie A champions Inter roared back from 2-0 down to beat visiting Palermo 3-2 in an enthralling encounter on Sunday.
Second-placed Napoli also put on a show, thrashing Pazzini’s now-toothless former club Sampdoria 4-0, with rampant Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani netting another hat-trick as they cut the gap to leaders AC Milan back to four points.
Faltering Juventus lost again, 2-1 at home to in-form Udinese, as the gulf in class between the fallen Turin giants and the other top teams continues to be apparent.
In one of the best matches of the season, fourth-placed Inter found themselves trailing to first-half goals from Fabrizio Miccoli and Antonio Nocerino, despite dominating.
Pazzini, signed on Friday, was thrown on at the break and soon scored with a superb turn-and-shot, before Palermo’s Javier Pastore had a penalty saved by fit-again Julio Cesar.
Leaping like a salmon for a trademark goal, Pazzini then planted a bullet header into the bottom corner from Maicon’s free-kick and Samuel Eto’o completed the victory from the spot 14 minutes from time after Pazzini was pulled back.
Inter coach Leonardo, whose side lost their first match under his month-long stewardship last weekend at Udinese, took a big gamble at 2-0 down at halftime by sending on Pazzini and fellow new signing Houssine Kharja.
The European champions were already ravaged by injury and suspension, and the substitutions made them even more unbalanced, with Pazzini lining up in a front three with Eto’o and Diego Milito which is unlikely to suit his game long-term.
However, in the end, sheer will dragged Inter through.
AS Roma’s game at Bologna was abandoned at 0-0 after 18 minutes because of snow.
Juventus dropped to seventh as their outside title hopes took another blow after Cristian Zapata and a late goal by Alexis Sanchez gave Udinese a comeback win following Claudio Marchisio’s acrobatic opener for the hosts. Juve’s Leonardo Bonucci and Sanchez were sent off late on.
Juve’s misfit striker Amauri was omitted amid speculation he could leave on transfer deadline day, with Juve keen on Cagliari’s Alessandro Matri, who scored twice as the Sardinians beat bottom team Bari 2-1.
Brescia coach Mario Beretta was replaced by Beppe Iachini after the second-bottom side lost 3-0 to Chievo. Lecce drew 1-1 with relegation rivals Cesena, while Genoa grabbed a 3-1 win over Parma.