Miroslav Klose scored three minutes from time to earn SS Lazio a crucial 3-2 win at rock-bottom Lecce on Saturday and move the Roman club up to second in Serie A.
Later on Saturday, Inter climbed clear of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Fiorentina, who were showing some early festive generosity.
Mistakes from Cesare Natali and Manuael Pasqual handed Inter a pair of gift goals for Giampaolo Pazzini and Japan international fullback Yuto Nagatomo.
At Lecce, Klose scored a brace and provided the pass for Lorik Cana to add Lazio’s other goal, while David Di Michele and Stefano Ferrario netted for the hosts.
Klose’s brace took him to eight league goals this season and brought him level with AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, third in the scoring charts.
The result ensured the capital-based club would remain among the front-runners after this weekend’s round of matches.
Lazio coach Edy Reja paid tribute to his German forward, but admitted his side had been fortunate to win.
“We know Klose’s strength and if you leave him alone for a moment in the area he’s unforgiving,” Reja told SkySport. “Today, I can say without a problem that we struggled and we were kissed by luck, Lecce deserved at least a draw.”
Lecce may have come into the game bottom of the table, but they showed no hint of an inferiority complex. From the start they were on top and they earned a penalty after Di Michele beat the offside trap and was brought down by Federico Marchetti’s rash dash from his line.
The former West Ham United striker dusted himself down and dispatched the spot-kick.
Marchetti may have been at fault in giving away the penalty, but he redeemed himself to a certain degree with a pair of fine saves from Luis Murial and Di Michele.
Then, out of nothing, the visitors equalized when Mobido Diakite climbed highest to win a header and Klose turned sharply to guide the ball home from close range.
Yet still it was Lecce who threatened as Murial cut inside a defender, but then shot wastefully wide of the near post from 12m.
Lazio may have been holding on at times in the first half, but they came out with a bang after the break.
Cana burst from midfield, played a one-two with Klose, and then shot across Massimiliano Benassi, but by the hour-mark the hosts had leveled as Ruben Olivera swung a free-kick into the box and Murial hooked the half-cleared ball back into the danger area, where Ferrario was one of four players lining up to knock the ball home.
Then on 87 minutes, France forward Djibril Cisse crossed from the right and Klose ghosted across his marker to flick a glancing header inside the post.
Inter welcomed back Brazilian defensive pair Lucio and Maicon for the visit of la Viola, who were missing crucial pair Riccardo Montolivo and Stevan Jovetic.
Inter took the lead four minutes from the break when Fiorentina old-boy Pazzini pounced on a mistake by Natali to flick the ball past Artur Boruc.
Four minutes into the second period, Pasqual’s tentative clearance hit a charging Nagatomo and the ball went in.
“This isn’t the match that reawakens us, but I’m satisfied with the way we played,” Inter coach Claudio Ranieri said. “It was a match full of desire, everyone was committed.”
The win moved Inter from 16th to ninth and a victory in their game in hand away to Genoa tomorrow could even see them move as high as sixth.
Elsewhere, Genoa won 2-0 at AC Siena to go seventh thanks to goals from Marco Rossi and Rodrigo Palacio, while Cesena won for the third time in four games as Adrian Mutu gave them a 1-0 win away to Palermo, who dropped their first home points of the season.
Cesena remain third from bottom of Serie A.