A rare Gennaro Gattuso strike ensured AC Milan kept Inter Milan at bay with an unconvincing 1-0 win at Juventus on Saturday.
Gattuso ended a run of more than three years without a goal in the 68th minutes, a rare highlight in a dour match that failed to live up to expectations.
But the three points will be all that matters to Milan, who improve to an eight-point gap ahead of Inter ahead of the latter’s clash with Genoa on Sunday.
Juve meanwhile, slump to their third straight loss and seventh in their last 11 games, heaping further pressure on under-fire manager Luigi Delneri.
Milan striker Antonio Cassano wasted the best chance of the first half when he blazed over the bar following Kevin-Prince Boateng’s excellent cross.
Boateng was substituted off in favour of Robinho at half-time as Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri looked for a spark up front, but it was the unlikely figure of Gattuso who broke the deadlock.
The Milan captain, suspended for four UEFA games for his headbutt on Tottenham assistant coach Joe Jordan in a fiery Champions League encounter two weeks ago, was on hand to finish off Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s good work shortly after the hour.
Ibrahimovic nodded the ball into Gattuso’s path, and the Italian broke away from Andrea Barzagli and tucked a low shot underneath Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
It was the midfielder’s first goal since scoring against Heerenveen in the UEFA Cup in October 2008, and his first in Serie A since January of that year.
Juve talisman Alessandro Del Piero was introduced with 10 minutes remaining by a desperate Delneri, but the 36-year-old was ineffectual as Juve plunged further into crisis.