Juventus and AC Milan’s thrilling tussle for the Italian Serie A title continued on Wednesday as they both scraped 1-0 wins against struggling sides.
Juventus maintained their three points lead over Milan as a late goal by Marco Borriello — his first in 17 games for the club — was enough to defeat Cesena and consign the losers to Serie B for next season.
It was just as well Borriello popped up to score as Juve were off-color with Andrea Pirlo missing a ninth minute penalty.
Milan too made heavy weather against relegation-threatened Genoa before Ghanaian star Kevin-Prince Boateng pounced to score the winner four minutes from time to ease the nerves of the San Siro home crowd.
Defeat leaves Genoa just one place above the drop.
The title contenders continue their battle on Sunday when Juventus are away to second-from-bottom Novara while Milan have the tougher task away to mid-table Siena.
A rejuvenated Inter Milan are right back in the running for a place in next season’s Champions League after winning 3-1 at Udinese earlier on Wednesday thanks to an inspired performance by Wesley Sneijder.
The Dutchman scored twice as the Nerazzurri came from behind at the Stadio Friuli to make it three wins and two draws in five games since former youth coach Andrea Stramaccioni replaced Claudio Ranieri in the dugout.
Inter capitalized fully on a slip-up by Lazio, whose grip on third place — the final Champions League qualifying position — was weakened by a 2-1 defeat at struggling Novara earlier in the day.
Lazio are a point clear of Napoli, who won 2-0 at Lecce, while Inter and Udinese are a further two points behind in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Meanwhile, Roma lost 2-1 at home to Fiorentina and slip to seventh.
With the sides around them all dropping points, Inter are suddenly looking well-placed to salvage a top-three finish from a season overshadowed by coaching changes and a failure to impress in Europe.
They went behind after just six minutes in Udine when Danilo netted for the home side, but Samir Handanovic allowed a weak Sneijder shot through his grasp for the equalizer in the tenth minute.
Sneijder then put Inter in front after excellent build-up play from Diego Milito and the 3-1 victory was complete before half time as Argentine midfielder Ricardo Alvarez turned the home defense inside out before slotting home.
Lazio are now three games without a win after substitute Giuseppe Mascara scored a delightful free-kick 11 minutes from time to give Novara a win that is likely to only delay their return to the second tier.
Lazio now face a crunch clash with Udinese on Sunday.
Marek Hamsik and the prolific Edinson Cavani — with his 100th goal in Italian soccer — netted for Napoli at Lecce, and Walter Mazzarri’s side will now face Roma this weekend in a strong position.
Having lost 4-0 to Juventus on Sunday, Luis Enrique’s Roma looked set for a draw against Fiorentina when Francesco Totti canceled out Stevan Jovetic’s opener.
However, Andrea Lazzari struck two minutes into injury time to inflict another defeat on the Giallorossi.