Though unbeaten in four ahead of kick-off, relegation-threatened Verona allowed Inter Milan to control possession in the early stages before almost pouncing on the counter, when danger man Simone Verdi controlled in the area and lashed a powerful strike at Samir Handanovic.
A previously passive Inter suddenly came to life following that flashpoint, and Edin Dzeko nearly notched his first career goal at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi, with a towering header that was tipped over by a full-stretch Lorenzo Montipo.
The Nerazzurri gradually increased the pressure and continued to whip in crosses, with one of them finally leading to the opener, when Julian Gaich mistimed a header and deflected the ball into his own net.
Looking increasingly outclassed with every passing moment, Verona continued to stand off the probing Inter attack, and Hakan Calhanoglu took full advantage with a curling, pinpoint strike into the top corner from 25 yards to make it 2-0.
And to cap a clinical 10-minute spell for Inter before HT, Dzeko finally got his elusive goal on Hellas’ turf when he raced clear of the defence and struck low underneath Montipo.
The one-way traffic resumed after the break, and Inter would soon make it four when Marcelo Brozovic played in Lautaro Martinez, who lifted a deft chip over Montipò and into the net.
Dzeko was also back to his lethal best, and completed a fourth competitive brace of 2022/23 just after the hour mark, as he controlled Francesco Acerbi’s perfectly-weighted pass and fired into the bottom-left corner.
In the dying seconds, Martinez also struck his second of the game by reacting to a loose ball in the area and firing past Montipo.
Verona’s prior record as 2023’s second-best home side in Serie A disintegrated against a merciless opponent, and they will have to recover quickly as they remain inside the relegation places with five matches left.
Meanwhile, after winning a league away game by six or more goals for the first time since September 2013, I Nerazzurri will be more confident than ever of staying in a Champions League qualification berth, having now recorded three consecutive league victories for the first time this calendar year.
Lazio completed their first Serie A double over Sassuolo in five years after a 2-0 win over Alessio Dionisi’s side at the Stadio Olimpico, meaning Napoli will have to wait until they face Udinese on Thursday to potentially secure the title.
The Biancocelesti’s need for points was significantly greater than their visitors in what has become an increasingly fraught battle for the top-four places, and this was reflected by a fast start in Rome.
Ciro Immobile thought he had given Lazio the lead when he slotted the ball home from close range following some lovely link-up play involving Marcos Antônio and Matías Vecino, and the goal was initially given following a VAR review. However, that decision was reversed moments later in a truly bizarre series of events, leaving the crowd perplexed.
Nevertheless, Maurizio Sarri’s men were undeterred and Felipe Anderson did manage to break the deadlock with a sliding finish from Antonio’s delightful lofted pass over the Sassuolo defence just shy of the quarter-hour mark.
The Neroverdi were shell-shocked and Andrea Consigli was a relieved man when Mattia Zaccagni’s curling effort sailed past his far post. In contrast, Sassuolo showed little in the way of attacking intent, but Davide Frattesi rattled the crossbar with a fierce angled strike as half-time approached.
Dionisi’s men came out after the break with renewed vigour but almost gifted the hosts a second when Ruan played the ball straight into Antonio’s path, but he fired over the bar with the goal gaping.
Sarri’s side were struggling to find the same fluency in their play after half-time and were almost made to pay when Gregoire Defrel flashed a shot across the face of goal, while Nedim Bajrami threaded in a pass to Domenico Berardi, who was denied by Ivan Provedel.
Boos rang round the Stadio Olimpico when Zaccagni's ball appeared to catch Jeremy Toljan on the arm, but play was waved on with no VAR review.
It did little to affect the outcome of the match though, as Toma Basic slotted home from Zaccagni’s ball across the box to double Lazio’s lead in stoppage time.
Disappointment for Sassuolo, but their SA safety was confirmed with the gap between themselves and 18th-placed Hellas Verona still at 16 points following their 6-0 defeat to Inter Milan.
European-chasing AC Milan scored in second-half stoppage time to salvage a point from a 1-1 draw with relegation candidates Cremoese at the San Siro, as the Rossoneri’s run of eight consecutive Serie A home victories against newly-promoted sides came to an abrupt end.
Although Milan’s recent upturn in form has come far too late to give them any chance of defending their title, it has put them right back in the fight for a top-four place in SA, and Stefano Pioli’s side will have earmarked this game as a chance to continue their late surge.
The Rossoneri have won each of their seven top-flight home matches with Cremonese, and they thought they had taken the lead after only 11 minutes when Pierre Kalulu’s pinpoint ball upfield was controlled by Alexis Saelemaekers, who raced through on goal and shot past Marco Carnesecchi. However, after a VAR check, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Cremonese's last meeting with Milan at the San Siro came all the way back in May 1996, when they were heavily defeated 7-1, and they were again on the back foot here.
Divock Origi’s low shot from the left side of the area, which was heading for the right corner, was well saved by Carnesecchi before Charles De Ketelaere almost capitalised on an underweighted back-pass, but the Cremonese stopper came off his line just in time to thwart the Belgian and ensure his team were still level at the break.
The home fans may have been concerned by the fact that their side’s last six league matches have seen the half-time result replicated at full-time, and their team’s attacking display in the second half will have done little to ease their nerves. With both teams effectively cancelling one another out, a stalemate appeared the likeliest outcome.
However, in dramatic circumstances, the visitors took a shock lead with 13 minutes left on the clock. A hopeful ball upfield from Pablo Galdames picked out David Okereke, who did brilliantly to leave Kalulu and Malick Thiaw in a heap on the floor before firing past Mike Maignan to stun the San Siro into silence.
It appeared that the visitors would hold on for a priceless three points, however, Junior Messias’ late free-kick was diverted in by Rade Krunic to salvage a point for the below-par Rossoneri.
Despite this, Milan will still view the result as a serious setback to their European hopes, as the Champions League semi-finalists drop one place to sixth, leaving them two points adrift of arch-rivals Inter Milan in fourth, while Cremonese - who had Charles Pickel sent off in the closing stages - were left wondering what might have been as they stay 19th, six points from safety.
Flashscore Man of the Match: David Okereke (US Cremonese)
Following a sluggish opening 10 minutes, Roma created their first chance of the contest from a set-piece. A free-kick from the left flank found Bryan Cristante, who produced a glancing header that required Michele Di Gregorio to make a smart stop.
Monza continued to keep their Champions League-chasing opponents at bay until the midway point of the first period when they gifted Stephan El Shaarawy his fifth league goal of the season. Tammy Abraham pressured Di Gregorio into losing possession in his own box, and while El Shaarawy saw his initial effort blocked on the line, he kept his composure to guide the rebound home.
To the relief of Di Gregorio, Monza managed to restore parity in the closing stages of the first period. Nicolo Rovella’s deep free-kick found an unmarked Luca Caldirola at the back post, and the experienced defender demonstrated all the skill of a prolific finisher to steer the ball into the roof of the net.
With momentum in their favour, the hosts flew out the blocks in the second half, going agonisingly close to taking the lead through Carlos Augusto. The Brazilian’s powerful strike was squeezed around the post by Rui Patrício in unconvincing fashion.
Following an exciting start to the second period, the contest quickly turned into an attritional affair, ensuring clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Roma were ultimately unable to find a way past their hosts, and their frustration was clear when Zeki Celik received a second yellow card in stoppage time.
The point lifts Monza into the top half of the table, while the result ensures seventh-placed Roma will end the season without an away league win over a promoted side for the first time since 1998-99 as they failed to stake their claim for a top-four spot.