Juventus triumphed 1-0 away to Lazio in the top-of-table clash at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to go clear at the Serie A summit.
Simone Pepe scored the only goal of an entertaining game that sees Juve lead the table by a point from Udinese, who beat Roma 2-0 on Friday.
Ominously for the rest, Juve could go four points clear if they win away to misfiring Napoli on Tuesday.
But in a clash that would say much about both sides’ title chances, it was the Old Lady of Turin who showed Lazio how to nick a tight contest.
“We’re happy because we’ve beaten a very good team who will fight to the end for the top places, that’s important for us,” said Juve coach Antonio Conte.
“We struggled at times but that’s inevitable in games like this against good teams, but we did well to see it through.
“We have the satisfaction of having played a top game. It’s inevitable in 90 minutes that you will have some problems in games like this but we created many chances and always looked for the second goal.”
A lively first half could have produced a lot more than the one goal which separated the sides at the break.
Stephan Lichtsteiner got down the right and crossed into the box where Claudio Marchisio nipped across the front post but headed wide.
Only a stunning save by Federico Marchetti from a swerving Andrea Pirlo free-kick, when the goalkeeper initially seemed wrong-footed, kept the scores level, as well as Lichtsteiner’s miss from five yards from the rebound.
Lazio first threatened when Tommaso Rocchi was played in on goal but his chipped finish hit goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and then Andrea Barzagli before slipping agonising wide of the post.
Juve were dangerous, though, and a great ball from Pirlo over the top found Pepe, who cut inside his marker but fired high and wide.
Hernanes played in Rocchi behind the backline but Buffon was out quickly to block his shot.
Juve took the lead on 34 minutes as Matri crossed from the left and Pepe escaped his marker to finish first time.
Pirlo launched another ball over the top but Marchetti made a mess of it only for the ball to hit an unaware Pepe and go wide.
Lazio were on the offensive after the restart and Hernanes was a lick of paint away from equalising, his shot from 15 yards coming back off the post while Buffon saved Senad Lulic’s follow-up.
Buffon then plunged to his left to keep out Miroslav Klose’s deflected effort.
Marchetti saved Lazio again after Emanuele Giacchini turned on the edge of the box and shot goalwards as the chances kept coming at both ends.
Edinson Cavani scored with virtually the last kick of the match to snatch a point for a tired-looking Napoli away to Atalanta in a 1-1 draw.
Striker German Denis had appeared to have come back to haunt his former employers by giving the hosts a 64th minute lead in Bergamo.
But the point continued Napoli’s poor domestic form that has left them with just one win in their last six in Serie A despite victories over AC Milan, Inter Milan and Manchester City this season.
“I don’t just analyse the game on the result but also how we play and whether we’re dangerous,” said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri.
“We weren’t very clinical but we had the right attitude after the Manchester game. Sometimes the result arrives or doesn’t but we did well today.”
Novara earned only their second win of the season in a 2-1 come-from-behind success against Parma to boost their hopes of avoiding the drop.
Victory moved Novara out of the relegation zone ahead of Bologna’s trip to Cagliari on Sunday.
Lecce remain in the bottom three after a last-minute Pablo Barrientos goal saw them fall to a 1-0 home defeat against Catania.