Third-placed Inter Milan needed a second-half goal from Keita Balde to earn a hard-fought win away to lowly Empoli in Series A on Saturday.
The Spanish-born Senegalese international met Sime Vrsaljko’s low cross with a first-time shot on the turn in the 72nd minute as Inter reached the halfway mark of the championship with 39 points.
The Milan side are now 14 behind leaders Juventus.
It was Inter’s third 1-0 win in their last four league matches, although they performed in fits and starts.
They also needed a good save by Samir Handanovic from Miha Zajc to prevent Empoli going ahead at the start of the second half.
Promoted Empoli’s fourth successive league defeat left them 17th in the 20-team table with 16 points, one place above the relegation zone.