Serie A - Smash-and-grab win for Inter in derby
Milito continued Inter’s resurgence with a poacher’s finish nine minutes into the second half, but he was afforded the opportunity by a horrible mis-kick by Rossoneri defender Abate.
Milan had dominated possession but were unable to break down a wily Nerazzurri defence, with the ‘visitors’ sitting back and successfully exploiting the counter-attack on several occasions at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium they share with their city rivals.
The result means Juventus are top by one point from Milan, despite a disappointing draw at home to Cagliari, while Inter - who started the season dreadfully - stay fifth but move within a point of fourth-placed Lazio and, crucially, only six points behind Juve.
An open and entertaining game saw Milan have the better possession, both sides create good chances and Inter denied what replays hinted may have been a good early goal on four minutes.
He was flagged offside, and initially it seemed the correct decision - but replays hinted otherwise, as Motta was half a yard on, even if a few of his team-mates had strayed beyond the late-moving backline.
For Milan, Alexandre Pato - rewarded with a start after rejecting a move to Paris Saint-Germain - seemed a little too eager to please, showing great endeavour but spooning well wide on 11 minutes, failing to deliver a cross after being given the run of the left, and hesitant before being denied by an excellent Lucio slide tackle.
There were other Milan chances, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic - benefiting from Pato’s bright movement - backheeled a spinning volley just over, while Kevin-Prince Boateng could not keep his shot down after a training-ground corner routine with Urby Emanuelson.
Another of the Rossoneri’s Dutchmen, Mark van Bommel, rattled the bar before his follow-up was saved by Julio Cesar, but - disallowed goal aside - the best chance of the half fell to Inter, as Ricardo Alvarez was denied superbly by Abbiati from close range after a wonderful cross by Inter’s Japanese left-back Yuto Nagatomo.
The second half continued in the same vein – Milan attacking, Inter countering – and it was the nominal visitors who took the lead on 54 minutes.
Inevitably it came from a counter after Pato was closed down inside the Inter box, with Milito on hand to drive a low finish across Abbiati and in off the post after a dreadful error from Ignazio Abate, who kicked air on the edge of his own area when presented with a simple interception from a weak low ball by Javier Zanetti.
While that riled Milan into a response, Inter were finding more space on the break: Nagatomo had a deflected shot tipped wide by Abbiati after Abate was again left wanting at the back.
Milan were still creating chances though - Julio Cesar forced to intervene when Ibrahimovic almost found Pato with a hanging cross.
The Rossoneri piled it on, Boateng seeing an effort blocked and Ibrahimovic dragging one wide, but the match was being played at breakneck speed now and Nagatamo again went close, firing straight at Abbiati after doing the hard work to fashion an opportunity.
Pato’s woes continued as another half-chance spun away from him, the ball surprising him at close range after Boateng’s step-over, and he was replaced late on by young playmaker Stephan El-Shaarawy.
The Italy youth international almost made an immediate impact, his quick feet creating a pair of chances for Robinho in quick succession: the first was parried by Julio Cesar and the second, via an Ibrahimovic flick-on, saw the Brazil forward kick air.
Milan continued to bombard Inter’s box but to little avail as the Nerazzurri’s experienced players took the ball into the corners and largely held them at bay, a long-range Clarence Seedorf effort that Julio Cesar saved their only real tester.
Coupled with Udinese’s defeat at Genoa, Juve are the new Serie A leaders, but there are five teams in it with half the season gone, making for an enticing 2012.