A rejuvenated Cagliari, fighting to avoid relegation, came close to staging an upset before settling for a 1-1 draw against Napoli that denied the latter a chance to go top in the Serie A Monday.
Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen saved a point for Napoli when he crashed in a powerful header with three minutes remaining but it was not enough for the away side to take first place from AC Milan.
Luciano Spalletti's outfit would have taken the top spot ahead of Milan on goal difference had it won in Sardinia but instead is two points back in third.
It was outplayed by a Cagliari team who took the lead through Gaston Pereiro in the 58th minute and was disappointed with the draw after having more than enough chances to seal the win before Osimhen struck.
"It was a difficult match for us. Maybe we didn't deserve what we got here, or rather Cagliari deserved more," Spalletti told DAZN.
"We never had the game under control, so it's probably a good result for us. We didn't do enough."
Cagliari would have moved out of the relegation zone with a win but stays 18th, level on 22 points with Venezia which is one place outside the bottom three due to Osimhen's late leveler.
Walter Mazzarri's side looked doomed to Serie B after losing at Juventus just before the winter break but has won three of its seven league matches since the turn of the year – losing just once.
"We played really well, it's a shame that we didn't get the win but we need to continue playing like this, with the same spirit," Pereiro told DAZN.
"Then the three points which we deserved today will come the next time."
It was another reprieve for Milan following its 2-2 draw at bottom side Salernitana on Saturday, as second-placed Inter, which is level on 54 points with Napoli, was beaten 2-0 by Sassuolo on Sunday.
Napoli was missing a host of players to injury including captain Lorenzo Insigne and key midfielders Stanislav Lobotka and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and the performance at a windy Unipol Domus stadium will have caused concern ahead of Thursday's Europa League showdown with Barcelona.
Pereiro was handed what looked like being the winning goal by David Ospina shortly before the hour mark when the Napoli goalkeeper let a weak shot squirm through his fingers and into his net.
However, Ospina then redeemed himself with some important saves which kept the deficit to one goal and allowed substitute Osimhen to earn Napoli a draw when he thumped home Mario Rui's deep cross.
Joao Pedro and Alessandro Deiola had already missed great chances before Ospina flapped at Pereiro's shot and the home fans could barely believe their eyes two minutes later when Napoli's stopper pulled off a great save to keep out Deiola's close-range header before Daniele Baselli somehow fired over.
Ospina saved Napoli's skin again with four minutes remaining, tipping over Razvan Marin's dipping, curling shot from the edge of the area and seconds later Osimhen popped up to reward his goalkeeper's sterling work with the equalizer.