Juventus regained the Serie A lead after Alessandro del Piero scored a late free-kick on his 700th appearance for the club to seal a 2-1 home win over SS Lazio on Wednesday.
AC Milan had beaten Chievo Verona 1-0 on Tuesday to throw down the gauntlet to their rivals, but Juve went a point clear after a hard-fought game where Lazio’s Stefano Mauri had equalized Simone Pepe’s opener.
“We are in the final stages of the battle, we won’t give up and neither will they,” Del Piero told Sky. “I feel fine in the head and in my legs, and I’m just thinking about the next game.”
Six games remain in one of the closest title run-ins in Italy for many years, while the defeat for third-placed Lazio opened up the battle for the Champions League qualifying berth.
AS Roma beat fourth-placed Udinese 3-1 to go four points behind Lazio, while Napoli lost 3-1 at home to Atalanta BC and Inter beat AC Siena 2-1 thanks to Diego Milito’s San Siro double.
Inter are now level with Napoli in a potential final Europa League spot as new coach Andrea Stramaccioni won for the second time in his three games in charge and Napoli failed to win for the fifth straight time in the league.
Juventus dominated at their eponymous stadium and were unlucky to go in level at the break having carved out several chances, with Pepe scoring on the turn from Andrea Pirlo’s pass on 30 minutes after missing an easier opportunity moments -earlier.
Mauri scored with a header on the stroke of halftime to give champions Milan hope they would stay top going into the weekend, but 37-year-old Del Piero, mainly a substitute these days and with his future up in the air, netted eight minutes from time.
Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti could perhaps have done better to save the trademark free-kick, but Juve fans did not care as their evergreen hero dug them out of a hole yet again.
In other results, bottom side Cesena are almost down after a 1-1 draw at Genoa, second-bottom Novara Calcio also look doomed following a 2-0 loss at Parma.
Lecce, who occupy the other relegation place, boosted their hopes of survival and cut the gap to Genoa to two points with a 2-1 victory at fading Catania.
Fiorentina and Palermo played out a goalless draw.
Additional reporting by staff writer