Padraig Whelan Date: 8th April 2018 at 4:58pm
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Two goals in the final four minutes from Napoli rescued three priceless points and kept them in the Scudetto race thanks to a 2-1 victory over Chievo.

Those title prospects looked to be dead and buried after Dries Mertens missed a second half penalty kick before Mariusz Stepinski capitalised on a defensive error to blast Chievo ahead in the closing stages.

But an 89th minute equaliser from Arkadiusz Milik gave Napoli a glimmer of hope before Amadou Diawara sent the Stadio San Paolo into jubilation when he kept a calm head to curl in a last gasp winner.

The pressure and onus was on Napoli from the off after Juventus extended their lead atop Serie A the day before with a win over Benevento and they should have taken the lead early in proceedings.

Lorenzo Insigne picked out fellow attacker Jose Callejon with a clever pass but the Spaniard volleyed off target when he should have tested Stefano Sorrentino, at the very least.

The Chievo goalkeeper was much less busy than he thought would have been on a visit to the Stadio San Paolo throughout the first half, with his defence doing well in sitting deep to restrict the hosts from finding their way behind and creating chances.

A perfect opportunity to take the lead presented itself five minutes into the second half when Mertens took a tumble in the box under an outstretched arm from Fabio Depaoli, leading to the referee pointing to the spot.

The Belgian took the kick himself but his attempt was at the perfect height for a goalkeeper and Sorrentino sprawled to his right to keep out the effort.

Shortly afterwards, the former Palermo man denied the striker yet again, this time palming his looping header to safety as the Partenopei probed and Chievo’s defending became rather more desperate.

Yet against all the odds, it was the visitors who went in front on 73 minutes through a defensive error from the home side, as Kalidou Koulibaly gifted Emanuele Giaccherini deep inside his own half.

The former Napoli man drove into the area before cutting the ball back to Stepinski, who kept a cool head in shimmying to his right and then unleashing an unstoppable drive beyond Pepe Reina.

Lady luck seemed to have deserted Napoli when they came within millimetres of an instant leveller, only for Lorenzo Tonelli’s header to come crashing back off the crossbar.

With a minute of normal time remaining, substitute Milik did set up a grandstand finish when he headed in from a difficult angle following a perfectly executed Insigne cross.

In the final minute of added time, the Partenopei sent a warning that they aren’t ready to relinquish their title chances quite yet when a corner kick fell to Diawara inside the area and he maintained his composure to curl into the far corner and keep his side in the Scudetto hunt.