EMPOLI, May 4 (Serie A) - Udinese retook sixth place while denting Empoli's survival hopes with a win at the Carlo Castellani stadium on Sunday.
Fabio Quagliarella's first-half strike ensured the visitors took all the spoils on a miserable afternoon for the unlucky hosts who hit the woodwork twice and missed a penalty.
Empoli midfielder Alessandro Budel wasted a great chance to hand the hosts the lead in the ninth minute as he blasted wide when unmarked on the edge of the area after Udinese forward Simone Pepe had headed back into his own box.
Two minutes later, Budel found Sebastian Giovinco with a great pass on the right side of the penalty area.
Giovinco tried his luck with a right footed first time effort which the excellent Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic blocked comfortably.
In the 16th minute, Giovinco received another decent long pass, this time from Ighli Vannucchi, but shot wide from the left channel 25 yards out.
Udinese took the lead in the 18th minute after a Daniele Balli howler. Budel lost the ball on the edge of his own area to Gaetano D'Agostino who quickly set up Quagliarella.
The striker fired a right-footed effort almost straight at Balli in the Empoli goal but somehow Balli allowed the shot to roll in having seemingly stopped it with his legs.
A minute later the unlucky keeper seemed to lose his head as he picked up a back pass from a colleague.
The referee awarded the visitors a free-kick from 12 yards but, luckily for Balli, Quagliarella could only fire into the wall.
In the 25th minute, Andrea Raggi hit the post with a header for the hosts after he connected with a Vittorio Tosto cross.
Davide Moro picked up the rebound outside the area and fired in a shot which Handanovic lifted over for a corner.
Almost 10 minutes after the restart, Empoli coach Luigi Cagni made two changes as he looked to get his side back in the game. Claudio Marchisio and Rey Volpato replaced Lino Marzoratti and Moro.
The hosts were handed a great chance to level the game in the 64th minute after Giovinco was felled by Pepe as he burst into the Bianconeri area forcing a penalty.
The former Juventus midfielder took the spot-kick himself but Handanovic guessed the right way and did well to block his right-footed shot.
Giovinco's luck failed to improve in the 75th minute as he again broke into the area, rounded three but his shot bounced out off the left post.
Empoli continued to press forward for the remainder of the game but were unable to unlock the Bianconeri defence. The Friulians appeared happy to sit back and protect their slender lead.
However, they almost killed the game off late on as substitute striker Antonio Floro Flores came close with a trio of chances although he either fired wide or found a more alert Balli in the Empoli goal.