Napoli moved a step closer to a place in the UEFA Champions League next season with a 1-0 win over Genoa at the Stadio San Paolo tonight.
A goal from Marek Hamsik seven minutes from the end of the game earned Walter Mazzarri's side all three points to take them nine points ahead of fifth-placed Udinese, and to within a win of guaranteeing their place in Europe's elite club competition next season.
The win also keeps alive their slim hopes of winning the Scudetto, although league leaders AC Milan would have to lose three of their last four matches for that to be possible.
It was a frustrating night for Napoli, though, as they struggled to break down a resolute Genoa side. The visitors' goalkeeper Eduardo was thwarting everything they sent at him until Hamsik finally found a way through.
Ezequiel Lavezzi's free-kick in the 20th minute provided the first chance, but Michele Pazienza's header went just wide with Eduardo unlikely to reach it. Most of Napoli's chances came in the second half, when Genoa's Portuguese goalkeeper took centre stage.
His preference to punch the ball clear looked awkward, but it was effective as he repeatedly repelled the ball from his six-yard box. One of his punches almost backfired, though, as the ball fell to Lavezzi, but he shot over the crossbar from ten yards out in the 56th minute.
It almost took one of Eduardo's own players to beat him in the 67th minute when Kakha Kaladze deflected Andrea Dossena's cross towards his own goal, but straight at the goalkeeper. A minute later, Eduardo pushed away Lavezzi's far-post header.
Hamsik finally found a way through in the 83rd minute to clinch the points after Dossena's cross was flicked on by Edinson Cavani, and the Slovakian midfielder chested the ball down past Domenico Criscito and slid his shot into the far corner.
"It's a victory that means a lot because we came into it off the back of two straight defeats and that hadn't happened before," said Mazzarri.
"There was a time during the game when we weren't as serene as normal, we could feel those two defeats and I'm happy mostly because we've bounced back."