Inter Milan were held to a 2-2 draw at struggling Chievo, giving rivals AC Milan renewed hope of pulling off a miracle. Inter could have wrapped up the title this weekend had they won and Milan lost at home to Juventus in today's late game. But should Milan win, they would cut Inter's lead to five points with three matches left and, while that may still seem like an unassailable gap, it has come down in alarming fashion over the last month.
Before Inter hosted Palermo on 11 April they led Milan by 14 points, but they have now won only one of their last five matches and the feeling is growing that the traditional chokers - as Inter were known throughout the 1990s and early 2000s when they went 17 years without winning the title - may just lose their nerve once again. Inter were actually off to a flyer as former Argentina international Hernan Crespo made the most of a rare start, only his second in the league all season, due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's suspension.
After just three minutes Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino made a howler as he spilled a tame strike from Esteban Cambiasso, allowing Crespo to thrash home the rebound. The visitors threatened to run away with things as veteran Portuguese winger Luis Figo's shot deflected off Nicolas Frey and came back off the post after another Sorrentino mistake.
But on 27 minutes Chievo struck back in stunning fashion as Michele Marcolini lashed in a left-foot howitzer from 25 yards out and slightly left of centre. Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar could do nothing but stand and admire it. Chievo were proving stubborn opponents, although Inter always looked the more dangerous and came close to going in front on 53 minutes after a flowing team move.
Captain Javier Zanetti played Cambiasso in down the right and he cut inside and played a one-two with Crespo, whose backheel return was sublime. But instead of pulling the trigger, Cambiasso teed up Mario Balotelli whose shot and follow-up were both blocked by Frey. The teenager did not have to wait too long to get his name on the scoresheet, as on 65 minutes he scored a goal even better than Marcolini's with a rocket of a volley from just inside the area.
That appeared to be that, but the game hosts struck back as Andrea Mantovani sent a deep cross over from the left to Brazilian Luciano at the back post on 73 minutes. Inter fullback Maxwell had been drawn into the middle and he could not get back across quickly enough to stop Luciano side-footing home across Julio Cesar from 15 yards.
In other matches, Fiorentina opened up a three-point lead over Genoa in the race for fourth place and UEFA Champions League football next season as they won 2-0 at Catania, while Genoa were held 1-1 at Atalanta. At the bottom, Torino stayed one point above the relegation zone as they drew 1-1 at home to Bologna, who are one place below them. Lecce's 1-1 home draw against Napoli kept them second bottom, two points off Torino, while rock bottom Reggina, who are four points from safety, were beaten 5-0 at Sampdoria on 9 May.