Stephan El Shaarawy pounced late on for AC Milan as Massimiliano Allegri’s side came back from 2-0 down to rescue a point and prolong his tenure at the club, for the time being at least.
Palermo looked in complete control at 2-0 up with little over 20 minutes to play thanks to goals from Fabrizio Miccoli and Franco Brienza but coach Gian Piero Gasperini suddenly went on the defensive, taking off the influential Brienza and it changed the complexion of the match.
Riccardo Montolivo gave the visitors hope and, as Palermo inexplicably continued to invite Milan onto them, the prolific El Shaarawy pounced with 10 minutes remaining for his seventh goal of the season.
The draw, which looked highly unlikely at one stage, may well have saved Allegri's job for the moment but the point means Milan are still languishing at 11th in the table and more results must follow fast.
Palermo have only themselves to blame as they almost totally dominated the first half and the early part of the second, perhaps sensing nervousness in the visitors’ ranks.
They might have had a penalty within the first 10 minutes, Kevin Constant running across the back of Brienza who tumbled in the box. The referee waved away the protests but the hosts continued to press, Josip Ilicic turning provider for the lively Miccoli, Daniele Bonera applying just enough pressure to force the striker to shoot just wide of Marco Amelia’s right hand post.
Moments later, Miccoli again had Amelia scrambling to parry away a fiercely struck free-kick as the Milan midfield struggled to come to terms with Palermo’s dominance in the middle of the pitch.
Milan struggled to create much themselves, Mathieu Flamini seeing his shot blocked after a lovely pass from Montolivo before Antonio Nocerino shot straight at the keeper from the resultant corner. A lapse in concentration from Constant then almost cost Milan dear, the midfielder passing straight to Miccoli who fired just over the bar.
The striker continued to worry Amelia, flashing a free-kick just wide with the keeper looking beaten. And just when it looked like Milan may hang on until the break, Miccoli again caused trouble in the box, flicking the ball into Ignazio Abate’s arm. The referee pointed to the spot and although it may have been more of a case of ball to hand, Miccoli lashed the penalty past Amelia and into the corner to give the hosts a deserved lead at the break.
Milan barely had time to draw breath from the restart when they were further behind. Again Miccoli started the move before passing to Brienza who lashed the ball past a stunned Amelia from the edge of the box. It was little more than Palermo deserved but with the pressure well and truly on Milan and the home side dominating, Gasperini threw Allegri a lifeline by taking his outstanding player off straight after his goal.
It was a bemusing decision and with Palermo now sitting back and playing just one up front themselves, Allegri threw the dice himself, bringing on extra firepower in the form of Urby Emanuelson and Bojan Krcic.
They almost immediately looked a different side, first Bojan then Emanuelson forcing the previously untroubled Samir Ujkani into fine saves. El Shaarawy then missed a glorious chance with the goal at his mercy, somehow failing to get a boot on Abate’s cross but still Palermo invited danger and paid the price as Bojan played in Montolivo to fire home.
Bizarrely, there now only looked one side likely to score and it was no surprise when El Shaarawy capitalised on a flapped punch from Ujkani to leap to the top of the goal charts and rescue Allegri.