Palermo extended their unbeaten Serie A run to five games with a narrow defeat of relegation-threatened Atalanta. Edinson Cavani netted the only goal from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Leonardo Talamonti. The visitors finished the contest with ten men as Gyorgy Garics was sent off in second-half stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
Palermo won all three fixtures in December - defeating Cagliari, AC Milan and Siena - before returning from the winter break with a 1-1 draw at Sampdoria and they have now won four of their last five games. Atalanta, meanwhile, have now lost three of their last four and are languishing deep in the drop zone after one win in their last nine matches.
The Nerazzurri are deep in the mire and seeking their third coach of the campaign after Antonio Conte handed his resignation following Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Napoli. Conte tried to tender his resignation after the loss, but it was rejected by the Atalanta directors. However, the former Juventus captain announced the following day that he has become the second coach this season to leave the relegation-threatened team.
With Palermo having ambitions of a European place at the top of the standings and Atalanta merely battling for survival at the bottom, it was no surprise the hosts dominated. Igor Budan headed narrowly wide after 16 minutes from the only effort on goal in the opening quarter of the contest.
Fabio Liverani attempted to enliven proceedings with an accurate cross that Atalanta goalkeeper Ferdinando Coppola had to tip over for a corner before Atalanta's first opportunity came when Cristiano Doni shot from the edge of the box, only to see his effort deflected for a corner.
Liverani again attempted to create an opportunity for Palermo, threading a through ball for Mattia Cassani. But Cassani was denied as Coppola dived low to thwart the chance. Coppola then punched clear a Liverani free-kick from a dangerous position in the final act of a first half of few chances.
Palermo were unable to get on the end of Federico Balzaretti's good cross early in the second period as Atalanta survived. Striker Fabrizio Miccoli, who is Palermo's top scorer with six goals, was serving a one-match ban and the hosts missed a clinical presence up front.
Cavani slots home
But with 20 minutes remaining Palermo were granted an opportunity from the penalty spot after Cavani was felled in the box by Talamonti. The Uruguay striker stepped up and drilled into the net, despite Coppola guessing the right way.
Cesare Bovo's sliding tackle was timed expertly to deny Diego De Ascentis a shooting opportunity ten minutes from time and a minute later Atalanta's Giacomo Bonaventura's weak shot could not trouble Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. As if to add insult to their latest defeat, Atalanta ended the contest with ten men when Garics was dismissed for a second bookable offence.