A solitary strike from Marek Hamsik returned Napoli to second spot in Serie A tonight, but the Partenopei made hard work of beating 10-man Chievo.
Upwardly-mobile Inter Milan had edged into second spot with victory at Bologna this afternoon, throwing down the gauntlet to Walter Mazzarri's Napoli, who were without injured star striker Edinson Cavani.
But the alternative strike duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev struggled to take up the Uruguayan's mantle, falling over each other to waste promising opportunities.
Slovakian playmaker Hamsik took matters into his own hands and fired the only goal of the game to keep the Campanians within three points of Juventus, before Chievo's Kamil Vacek saw red late on.
How the game remained goalless at the half-time interval was anybody's guess, as Napoli's players spent 45 minutes competing to miss the target in increasingly bizarre ways.
Gokhan Inler had the Partenopei fans off their seats in the eighth minute, smashing the ball off the crossbar and onto Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino's back.
But with the ball bobbling along the goalline, Pandev appeared to help Sorrentino in clearing the danger.
There was another let off for Chievo when Boukary Drame was not penalised for blocking a Hamsik header with his hand, before Christian Maggio missed the target in ridiculous fashion.
Sorrentino was beaten as Insigne picked Maggio out in the area, the Italy international somehow getting underneath the ball to head it over the bar.
Maggio tried to atone for his glaring error by driving in a dangerous cross for Pandev, Sorrentino clawing the ball away at full stretch, before Inler forced the under-siege stopper to palm his rasping drive clear.
Pandev had the goal at his mercy in the 38th minute, courtesy of a tricky pull-back from Insigne, but the Macedonian decided to scissor kick the ball over the bar instead.
It was a similarly aimless start to the second period for Napoli, Insigne soon allowing Marco Andreolli to the rob him off possession in the area.
Hamsik had clearly paid attention to Mazzarri's half-time team talk, though, as he rifled the Azzurri ahead in the 58th minute following good work from Jose Zuniga.
Chievo had barely threatened but Cyril Thereau would go close twice, his first effort blocked before the Frenchman squeezed a shot over the bar.
The Flying Donkeys' prospects of salvaging a draw were dealt a severe blow in the 78th minute as Vacek picked up a second yellow card for tugging at Hamsik's shirt.
Nevertheless, if substitute Sergio Pellissier had coped better with Thereau's canny pass, Chievo might just have stolen a point at the death.