Lazio moved up to second in Serie A after a 1-0 win at Sampdoria saw them leapfrog Inter Milan, who were held at home by Genoa, while AS Roma beat AC Milan 4-2 in a thrilling end to 2012's Serie A action on Saturday.
Hernanes' goal for Lazio 30 minutes into a scrappy match lifted Vladimir Petkovic's team to 36 points, eight behind champions and league leaders Juventus, who won 3-1 at Cagliari on Friday.
"We worked hard for this, in the last month we have started to believe that we can do something important," Petkovic told Sky Italia before adding that they still needed to improve to challenge Juve for the title.
"We are doing better and better, we are more and more convincing, and some players are coming into form. We are doing well, but not well enough to compete with Juve," he said.
Andrea Stramaccioni's Inter dropped to fourth after Esteban Cambiasso's equaliser five minutes from time cancelled out Ciro Immobile's superb individual goal for second-bottom Genoa.
The 1-1 draw left Inter nine points off the top going into the Italian mid-season break.
"Today the result wasn't positive but I have to compliment the team, we're in a strange period," Stramaccioni said.
"The break is coming at a good time, now we're going to take our minds off things and come back stronger... things are right for a good 2013."
ROMA GO THIRD
Roma remained firmly in the race for a Champions League qualifying spot after beating Milan in an end-to-end thriller, with the visiting defence looking ragged.
Goals from Nicolas Burdisso, Pablo Osvaldo and two from the sensational Erik Lamela put the home side 4-0 up in just over an hour and the win moved Zdenek Zeman's flamboyant side into sixth place and within four points of Lazio.
"I'm happy with our display, especially the first half," said Roma manager Zdenek Zemanin, "the second half we tried to sit back on our lead but we don't know how to do that."
"It was a good game in the first half because we pressured them high up the field and were able to hit them on the counter-attack. In the second half we got pinned back though."
Roma had Marquinhos sent off with 13 minutes left for handball as Milan's Serie A top scorer Stephan El Shaarawy looked to be heading for a one-on-one with Mauro Goicoechea.
Milan staged a late rally with two goals in the last five minutes but it was too late to make up for their earlier defensive failings and the defeat left the club loitering in seventh, seven points off a Europa League qualifying spot.
"I think we need to improve our defending, but I did not see any big mistakes tonight," said defiant Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. "Maybe we weren't aggressive enough on their counter-attacks, probably because we feared Roma's forwards."
"Sometimes games go against you and we contributed to the result, but at the end of the day I think Milan played well. Roma deserve credit for making the most of the space we left them."
Fiorentina moved into third spot with a 3-0 win over troubled Palermo as Stevan Jovetic netted twice, including a penalty, and Gonzalo Rodriguez scored with another spot-kick.
Vincenzo Montella's dark horses now stand above Inter on goal difference and are one point behind Lazio.
Napoli, who were docked two points in midweek for the involvement of their players in a betting and match-fixing scandal from 2010, scored twice in the last five minutes to claim a dramatic 2-0 win at bottom club Siena.
Christian Maggio netted before Edinson Cavani converted from the spot.
Walter Mazzarri's side were far from their thrilling best but stay in fifth within two points of Lazio, putting pressure on the other challengers for the Champions League places.
Atalanta's German Denis struck a 40th-minute penalty, his seventh goal of the season, to give the hosts a 1-1 draw with Udinese, who had taken the lead seven minutes earlier through Luis Muriel's first goal of the campaign.
Torino saw off Chievo 2-0 in Turin while Parma won 2-1 at Bologna thanks to second-half goals by Jaime Valdes and Nicola Sansone after Frederik Sorensen had given the hosts the lead nine minutes after the break.
Serie A now takes a mid-season break until January 5.comments