Napoli will have to wait a little longer to seal their first Serie A title in 33 years after being held to a 1-1 draw by Salernitana on Sunday.
Runaway league leaders Napoli needed to win to secure their third league crown with six games remaining in the season after Inter Milan beat closest challengers Lazio 3-1 earlier in the day.
And Naples thought a generation of frustration was set to come to an end when Mathias Olivera headed the hosts into the lead just after the hour mark.
But the long-awaited Scudetto party will have to be put on hold for at least a few more days after Boulaye Dia’s stunning strike six minutes from time ensured Salernitana escaped with a point.
“The players are obviously disappointed at not having made our brilliant fans happy tonight. But you’ve seen for a while that these points are the hardest ones to get,” coach Luciano Spalletti told DAZN.
“We represent their dreams and that means it’s right that their dreams are realised by us.”
The coming midweek round of matches could finally end Napoli’s long wait for glory.
Spalletti’s team are 18 points ahead of Lazio, who stay second thanks to third-placed Juventus drawing 1-1 at Bologna and officially dropping out of title contention, 19 points off the pace.
Napoli will win the league on Wednesday if Lazio fail to beat Sassuolo, who beat Empoli 2-1 on Sunday with a Domenico Berardi brace.
Regardless Napoli’s current stars now only need a single point to emulate Diego Maradona, who led southern Italy’s biggest club to their only previous league titles in 1987 and 1990.
Pushed by a feverish crowd, decked out in blue and white, Napoli started on the front foot and almost went ahead seconds after kick-off when Victor Osimhen headed Hirving Lozano’s cross just wide.
However Serie A’s leading scorer Osimhen was the hosts’ only threat in a what turned out to be a frustrating first half in which Salernitana defended deep and largely kept Napoli at bay.
The best chance of the opening period fell to Osimhen in the 23rd minute, the Nigeria forward meeting Piotr Zielinski’s deep free-kick with a powerful header which was brilliantly pushed away by Guillermo Ochoa.
Ochoa then batted aside Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s long-range drive three minutes before the break as Napoli struggled to create any opportunities against a Salernitana side not yet sure of Serie A safety but now unbeaten in nine matches.
The crowd was increasingly apprehensive until Olivera headed home the opener, causing an eruption of joy inside and outside the stadium.
Blue smoke engulfed the stands while fireworks audibly blasted outside the stadium, the acrid smell of spent firecrackers wafting through the ground.
Those fans in the stadium had begun queueing outside nearly five hours before the 1300GMT kick-off, with flags, flares and horns creating a colourful, cacophonous atmosphere.
Bars and restaurants around the stadium heaved with people as cars, scooters and police vehicles tried to weave their way through a sea of fans and vendors who spilled out onto the road.
The city centre was closed to traffic shortly before kick-off, and more than 5,000 police officers had been deployed to maintain security, according to local newspaper Il Mattino.
But it was all to be in vain as Dia stunned the whole city into silence when he bundled past Osimhen and then lashed home an unsavable shot past Alex Meret.
That strike, Dia’s 12th of the Serie A season, meant that Inter’s win over Lazio was only good to move Simone Inzaghi’s team into the Champions League positions.
A Lautaro Martinez brace and another strike from Robin Gosens, which all came in the final 13 minutes, moved Inter into the top four ahead of AC Milan and Roma on goal difference.
Inter are also four points behind Lazio, who are back in a serious fight for a place in next season’s edition of Europe’s top club competition.
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