Second-half goals from Milan Skriniar and Andrea Ranocchia secured Inter a much-needed 2-0 triumph over basement boys Benevento on Saturday.
The Nerazzurri's stuttering season appeared set to plumb new depths against travel-sick opponents until they scored twice in the space of three minutes.
Skriniar lifted the mood inside a toxic San Siro when he caught Benevento sleeping at a corner, the defender running on to a bouncing ball to nod home.
Ranocchia followed his fellow centre-back's lead soon after, meeting Joao Cancelo's inviting free-kick with a firm header that flashed into the bottom right corner of goalkeeper Christian Puggioni's net.
Serie A's bottom club had proved a major stumbling block until the quickfire double, and even had a stong shout for a penalty at 0-0, Danilo Cataldi denied when appearing to tumble over Ranocchia's outstretched leg.
However, the visitors finished the game with 10 men, Nicolas Viola sent off after receiving two late bookings, as Inter picked up a win that lifts them up to third in the table.
4 - No defender has scored more goals than Milan Skriniar in Serie A this season (four goals). Guarantee. #InterBenevento— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 24, 2018
For Inter, it's all about points, not performances. When they won the reverse fixture last October thanks to a brace from Marcelo Brozovic, they were unbeaten in seven games and appeared set to challenge for the Scudetto.
Instead, a run of just one win in their last 10 league outings either side of the winter break has abruptly ended any title talk and instead left them in a fight to finish in the top four.
Having seen his side struggle in a 2-0 loss at Genoa, Spalletti recalled Ivan Perisic and handed Rafinha his first start since joining from Barcelona, though the returning Mauro Icardi was only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench.
The changes failed to inspire the hosts in the first half, though, and it was Benevento who had the best opportunity to score before the break.
Massimo Coda's fierce drive on the counter forced Samir Handanovic into a smart save and immediately triggered a chorus of jeers from a far-from-happy Inter faithful.
At the other end, Gaetano Letizia's well-timed tackle stopped Antonio Candreva from calling Puggioni into action, the forward seeing the ball taken off his left foot just as he was set to pull the trigger.
Matias Vecino finally managed Inter's first on-target attempt in the 54th minute, unleashing a 25-yard shot that Puggioni punched over for a corner in rather unorthodox fashion.
Cataldi was outraged when the officials failed to point to the spot after his clash with the clumsy Ranocchia, who quickly made an impact in the opposite box to put the game beyond Benevento.
By that stage Skriniar had finally broken the deadlock, heading home his fourth goal of the season via a deflection off the underside of the crossbar.
Benevento's misery was complete with the dismissal of Viola, leaving them still without an away point in Serie A. While they're stuck at the bottom, things might finally be looking up for Inter.
Key Opta stats:
- Prior to today, the last Inter home Serie A game without shots on target in the first half was back in September 2016 (v Juventus).
- The first shot on target for Inter came in the 54th minute.
- Inter have won their last two home league games after three draws and a defeat.
- Inter have scored the most headed goals in Serie A this season (11) – Benevento have conceded the most (12).
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