Gonzalo Higuain took his Serie A goals tally to 16 from 17 games as 10-man Napoli moved to within a point of leaders Inter Milan with a 3-1 away win at Atalanta on Sunday.
With a four-point cushion on Fiorentina and Napoli before the final Serie A games of 2015, Inter Milan will start the New Year top of the pile irrespective of their result against Lazio in Sunday’s later clash.
But Roberto Mancini’s men were given a reminder of what lies ahead in the second half of the season after Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma and Juventus all won their respective final games before the league takes a two-week break.
Fiorentina and Napoli had dropped to third and fourth respectively after Juventus moved up to second earlier with a patchy 3-2 win at Carpi that gave the champions their seventh consecutive victory as they continue to make amends for a disastrous start to the campaign.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men are now fourth, at three points behind Inter and two behind Fiorentina and Napoli, following respective wins for the pair.
In Florence Nikola Kalinic broke the deadlock in the 20th minute with an angled shot that squirmed under Albano Bizzarri’s legs.
Strike partner Josip Ilicic doubled Fiorentina’s lead with a fine dipping strike from outside the area that beat Bizzarri at the ‘keeper’s far post to wrap up the points for Paulo Sousa’s hosts.
Atalanta, who stunned Roma 2-0 in the Italian capital a fortnight ago, had pledged to make life hard for Napoli in Bergamo and for a time the visitors toiled.
Higuain missed a couple of early chances and ‘keeper Pepe Reina had to be at his best to push away a great strike by Luca Cigarini following a freekick at the end of the opening half.
Napoli finally broke the deadlock when Marek Hamsik fired in off the crossbar to beat Davide Bassi from the penalty spot after Dutch defender Marten De Roon handled a cross floated in for Higuain.
Atalanta pulled level only two minutes later thanks to Alejandro Gomez’s low strike that left Reina rooted to the spot.
But Napoli were back in front just after the hour when Higuain was left alone at a corner to flick a header past Bassi at the keeper’s near post.
The Argentinian celebrated stretching his league-leading tally to 15 goals by running half the length of the pitch to hug coach Maurizio Sarri, who has been credited with Napoli’s title push this season.
Napoli suffered a blow when Brazilian midfielder Jorginho saw red for a studs-up challenge, but the visitors took the setback in their stride.
When Higuain was set free down the right on 85 minutes, the Argentinian held off his marker to fire across goal and beat Bassi at his far post.
Hamsik had a chance to make it four for the Azzurri after Gabriel Paletta tugged at Dries Mertens as he was about to pull the trigger in front of goal.
Paletta was given his marching orders and the referee pointed to the spot, but Slovakian international Hamsik sent his effort a metre over.
Edin Dzeko was sent off for dissent in the second half at the Stadio Olimpico, where Alessandro Florenzi’s close-range volley gave the embattled hosts a 42nd minute lead against Genoa.
But 18-year-old Umar Sadiq, who replaced Mohamed Salah eight minutes from the end, eased any late nerves when he ghosted in at the back post to head past Mattia Perin to score his maiden Serie A goal.
Roma’s 2-0 win ended a four-game winless streak for Rudi Garcia’s men, who remain in fifth spot at four points behind Inter and one behind Juventus.
Inter will restore their four-point advantage later Sunday if they overcome a struggling Lazio side at the San Siro.
Lazio are on a seven-game winless run that has dropped them to 12th place at 16 points behind Inter.