A second half goal from Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari gave champions Inter Milan a narrow 1-0 win over Juventus at San Siro on Saturday. Meanwhile, stuttering Fiorentina relaunched their faltering title challenge with a vital 4-2 home victory over Udinese.
Inter are now four points clear at the top, although their bitter city rivals AC Milan can close that gap back to one point if they win at Torino on Sunday. Juventus stay third while Fiorentina move up to fourth.
The game at San Siro was played at a furious pace with end to end action, despite few clearcut scoring chances. Dejan Stankovic broke through for Inter on 12 minutes but couldn't quite keep his balance under pressure from challenges by Christian Molinaro and then Giorgio Chiellini.
On 26 minutes, Nicola Legrottaglie completely missed the ball, allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to scamper away down the left, but the Sweden striker dragged his shot wide when a square ball to the waiting Adriano would have presented the recalled Brazilian with an open goal. In first half stoppage time, Muntari took a pass from Ibrahimovic in his stride and brought a smart save out of Alex Manninger.
Inter continued to create the best openings after the break, and Adriano headed a cross from Ibrahimovic over the bar before the Swede took a Stankovic pass on his chest but shot wide of the near post.
But the hosts took the lead in scrappy fashion 18 minutes from time as a scuffed Ibrahimovic shot found Muntari at the back post with an empty goal to tap into. That spurred Juventus into life and Alessandro Del Piero drew a fine diving save from Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar with a header from a corner on 82 minutes.
In Florence, Riccardo Montolivo scored a brace, Adrian Mutu hit the net from the penalty spot and Alberto Gilardino also got his name on the scoresheet, alothough Gianluca Comotto was sent off late on. Antonio Floro Flores had given Udinese a first half lead and substitute Antonio Di Natale tucked home a penalty late on for the visitors.
Fiorentina had lost two of their previous three matches at lowly Cagliari and Siena, and their championship hopes were starting to drift away. Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli admitted that Udinese had been the better team in the first half. "Until we scored we hadn't threatened, and we had some problems because we lost our shape," he said.
"At that point we were lucky not to lose a second goal. Then in the second half we had 25 incredible minutes, maybe the best since I've been here in Florence."
For Udinese it was a third straight defeat and fourth match in a row without a win since they enjoyed a share of the Serie A lead. The visitors took the lead on 29 minutes as Floro Flores teased two defenders on the edge of box and then lifted a fine shot over French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey.
Udinese had enjoyed much the better of the first half but the game turned on a penalty award seven minutes after the break. Alberto Gilardino tumbled in the box under a challenge from Maurizio Domizzi, Mutu cleverly dinked the penalty home with a cheeky chip, and on 64 minutes the hosts went in front.
It was a simple goal as Montolivo took Mutu's pass to the left of the area and curled a low shot around Samir Handanovic. Fiorentina then scored twice more within a minute as Montolivo sent home a bobbling left foot volley from outside the box before Mutu crossed for Gilardino to poke home a fourth.
Comotto was red carded after handling on the line to deny Floro Flores a second, but Di Natale stroked home the resultant spot kick.