GENOA, April 27 (Serie A) - Former Genoa coach Luigi Cagni enjoyed a triumphant return to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday as his Genoa side picked up three vital points to move out of the drop zone.
Ignazio Abate struck the decisive goal for the visitors from Tuscany after quarter of an hour and the hosts could find no reply.
Genoa's miserable afternoon was compounded two minutes from time by the dismissal of substitute Marco Di Vaio - just 12 minutes after his introduction.
Empoli's victory - coupled with Livorno's 4-1 defeat at home to AC Milan and Parma's 2-1 reverse at Reggina - sees Cagni's troops climb two places to 17th while Genoa remain eighth.
Cagni, back at the Empoli helm after being sacked earlier in the campaign, saw his team begin the match well with Abate's cross to the far post finding Luca Antonini, who could not convert from close range.
At the other end, Daniele Balli made a neat save from Marco Borriello's header following a 10th-minute corner to prevent Genoa taking the lead.
The deadlock was soon broken when Sebastian Giovinco provided the pass for Abate who found himself all alone in front of home goalkeeper Fernando Rubinho and made no mistake, slotting into the bottom-right corner to put the strugglers one up.
Davide Moro came close to putting the Azzurri two ahead three minutes later when he tried his luck from 25 yards, but his left-footed effort drifted narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
Empoli had more to play for out of the two teams and that continued to show as the half wore on.
Abate mustered the visitors' next opportunity for Antonini, whose shot looked destined for the corner before Rubinho intervened with a fine parry nine minutes before the interval.
Ivan Juric looked to get Gian Piero Gasperini's team back on level terms five minutes after the break but his strike from all of 35 yards failed to trouble Balli.
Giovinco then had a couple of chances to extend Empoli's advantage, the first from a free-kick and the second from open play, but drilled both over the crossbar.
Juric sent over a cross midway through the second half which skimmed the top of Balli's bar, and that was as close as Genoa came to an equaliser.
Ighli Vannucchi just failed to connect with a dangerous cross from Antonini after 73 minutes and then shot wide from 20 yards five minutes later.
Di Vaio - who was introduced in place of Juric 14 minutes from time - let his frustration boil over after 88 minutes and was shown a straight red for his over-zealous complaints towards referee Gabriele Gava.