Serie A - Inter survive Cesena test
Cristian Chivu scored the winner as Internazionale escaped from the San Siro with a vital 3-2 win over Serie A strugglers Cesena.
All the goals were scored in a frantic first half, which saw Inter pegged back to 2-2 after having stormed into an early 2-0 lead through goals from Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito.
Erjon Bogdani and Emanuele Giaccherni got the visitors back into it, but Chivu's header in first-half stoppage time was ultimately enough to settle the game in the Nerazzurri's favour.
Cesena were reduced to 10 men when goalscorer Giaccherni was dismissed in the 74th minute but the visitors still managed to cause Inter problems, with Igor Budan coming closest when he hit the post in the closing minutes.
But Inter held on for a win that boosts their hopes of defending their Serie A crown.
In what was a frenetic first half largely dominated by Inter, the home side looked in complete control as Eto'o gave them a deserved lead on 14 minutes.
It was brilliant strike by the Cameroonian, who cut in from the left and rolled the ball to Milito, who played it back for Eto'o to fire inside the far post.
Cesena failed to get to grips with Milito in the opening 15 minutes and soon after Eto'o gave them the lead, the Argentine had doubled Inter's advantage.
Goran Pandev found himself in the box after beating the Cesena offside trap and moved the ball out to his right for Milito to slide it home.
But that was the last action of the night for Milito, who appeared to injure himself in the act of scoring and limped off to be replaced by Jonathan Biabiany.
With Inter playing with a swagger it appeared to be a case of how many they could humiliate Cesena by - but against the run of play the visitors got a goal back through Bogdani, who took advantage of slack Inter defending to drill home Luca Ceccarelli's cross from the right.
Remarkably, Cesena then squared the game at 2-2 after Giacherni got away from Lucio in the box to stroke home Luis Jimenez's cross.
Follow live text commentary on these games this week: Roma v Cagliari; Udinese v Inter; Sampdoria v Juventus; Milan v Cesena
Inter probed the Cesena goal in search of a third and Chivu almost scored it when he got forward to produce a delicate chip that had Francesco Antonioli beaten, only for the ball to be headed off the line by Guiseppe Colucci.
But just five minutes later Chivu was not to be denied as he found the net on the stroke of half-time.
Maicon picked out Chivu, who had made a galloping run from the back before leaping above the defenders and heading beyond the keeper to make it 3-2.
In a more subdued second half Inter continued to dominate but showed greater awareness of their defensive responsibilities.
They were always on the search for a fourth goal that would tie up the match, and Eto'o came closest when his powerful effort from eight yards out crashed against the crossbar after Cambiasso's good work on the right created the opening.
Cesena were reduced to 10 men half-way through the second half when Giaccherni, one of Cesena's most potent attacking threats, was given a second yellow for kicking the ball away.
Despite the loss the visitors flourished in the minutes after his dismissal.
Budan, a late replacement for Jimenez, had two opportunities in quick succession to salvage a crucial point for the Serie A strugglers. The first was a close-range effort that he could not quite wrap his foot around, the second a clearer chance which Budan struck well but could only find the base of the near post.
In what was an open, flowing game chances fell to Maicon and Pandev to wrap up the win by a more convincing scoreline, but Leonardo's side were ultimately forced to settle for a 3-2 win.
The win moves Inter ahead of Roma and Juventus and into fourth in the Serie A table.