Inter put an end to Napoli's 100 per cent record in Serie A this season as Italy's top two fought out a fascinating but ultimately frustrating 0-0 draw at Stadio San Paolo on Saturday.
Looking to get back to winning ways following Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League loss to Manchester City, league leaders Napoli were denied a ninth straight league victory by the brilliance of visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The Slovenian produced a sparkling double save in the first half of a tense battle and denied Dries Mertens in injury time as the hosts failed to find the net for the first time since a 2-0 loss to Atalanta in February.
While Napoli failed to make it nine wins on the spin, the result at least maintains their two-point lead over nearest rivals Inter at the summit.
However, the draw also allows reigning champions Juventus - who travel to Udinese on Sunday - the chance to close the gap on the top two in what is shaping up to be an enthralling early title race.
Having sat out the midweek loss in Europe, midfield duo Jorginho and Allan both returned to Napoli's starting XI. There was also the unexpected inclusion of Lorenzo Insigne, who had hobbled off in the second half at the Etihad Stadium with a right adductor strain.
Inter, meanwhile, had enjoyed a satisfying break after their exertions in the Derby della Madonnina last Sunday, allowing Luciano Spalletti to pick an unchanged side.
The visitors were indebted to Handanovic for coming through a lively first half unscathed, as the goalkeeper denied Napoli twice in quick succession in the 20th minute.
Having initially dived low to his left to keep out a first-time drive from Jose Callejon, Handanovic reacted quickly while still grounded to flip his body to the right and block Mertens' attempt to convert the rebound.
Mauro Icardi and Borja Valero did force Pepe Reina into action as Inter grew as an attacking threat, yet they were fortunate Insigne failed to convert a free header from Marek Hamsik's lofted pass to the back post.
A break from deep by Matias Vecino breached Napoli's high defensive line early in the second half but although he rounded Reina, his chip from a tight angle was drifting wide before the retreating Elseid Hysaj headed clear.
Captain Hamsik failed to take an opportunity to draw level with Diego Maradona on 115 goals for Napoli from Callejon's clever knockdown, dragging his attempt wide to the left from the edge of the area.
But, as has become common in games this season, the hosts faded as an attacking force once the influential Hamsik - a driving force in their engine room - was withdrawn in the 71st minute.
After replacement Piotr Zielinski tested his reactions with a stinging volley from distance, Handanovic denied Mertens again with a point-blank save as the game slipped into stoppage time.
While still without a win at the ground since 1997, Inter at least held firm to pick up a point and deny Maurizio Sarri's usually free-scoring side from stretching their lead in the standings.
Key Opta stats:
- Inter have drawn a match 0-0 for the first time in Serie A since October 2015 (vs Juventus), 734 days ago.
- Napoli have drawn a match 0-0 in Serie A for the first time since Genoa-Napoli (September 2016), 41 league matches ago.
- Inter and Napoli have recorded the most clean sheets (five) in this Serie A season.
- Inter and Napoli are the only two teams still unbeaten in Serie A in 2017-18.
- Inter have failed to score in the last three Serie A clashes against Napoli.
- Inter fired only two shots on target in the match, less than in any other Serie A 2017-18 game.
- Inter are unbeaten after the first nine Serie A matchdays for the first time since 2007-08.
-Napoli are unbeaten after the first nine Serie A matchdays for the first time since 1989-90.
18. November 2017
|Nets PG Russell undergoes successful surgery|
|Championship Review: Sheffield United go top|
|Gloucester´s second-half surge stuns leaders Saracens|
|Schurrle: Dortmund couldn´t deal with Stuttgart counter-attacks|
17. November 2017
|Conte laments Italy World Cup failure|
|Murray splits with coach Lendl|
|Hartley´s Toro Rosso deal will not affect Porsche status|
|Amiens 1 Monaco 1: Jovetic rescues point but champions give PSG boost|
|Dimitrov eager to keep momentum going after easy Carreno Busta win|
|Stuttgart 2 Borussia Dortmund 1: Bosz pressure builds after more Burki mishaps|
|Sunderland target Coleman steps down as Wales manager|
|Memorable Ashes Moments: Harmison sends down woeful opening wide as England´s defence wilts|
|Conte´s wife tells him to grow a beard – Conte grows a beard|
|Simeone rules out Everton job, promising ´a couple of years at least´ at Atletico|
|Pique to miss Barcelona´s Leganes trip over personal matter|
|Serena Williams reportedly marries Alexis Ohanian in New Orleans|
|UEFA closes Roma ´monkey chanting´ case|
|Swinson set to miss Six Nations after finger surgery|
|Don´t worry about Messi renewal, Valverde tells Barcelona fans|
|Cheika disrespected referee - Jones|
|´Griezmann? We´ll see´ – Valverde won´t rule out Barcelona pursuit of Atletico star|
|Cardinals & Larry Fitzgerald agree to 2018 contract extension|
|Uncapped Enever replaces injured Coleman for Twickenham clash|
|Goffin overcomes slow start & Thiem to set up Federer semi|
|Unsworth surprised to see Allardyce snub Everton|
|Six-week stadium ban for Sale boss Diamond|
|Mourinho has ´immense respect´ for Benitez|
|Howe backs Defoe to make World Cup squad|
|Everton speculation out of my control - Silva focusing on Hornets|
|Conte concerned by Manchester City´s breakaway lead|
|Man City results ´perfect´, but Guardiola demands improvement|
|David Luiz back in Chelsea squad, Conte confirms|
|Recovered Klopp offers Liverpool fitness update|
|Guardiola confident Aguero in ´perfect´ condition despite hospital trip|
|Ibrahimovic, Pogba and Rojo back for Manchester United|
|Fleetwood and Rose look set for desert duel, Fitzpatrick leads in Dubai|
|Heynckes compiling list of potential successors|
|Modric & Carvajal fit for Madrid derby|
|Bayern begin talks over Wagner deal|
|Pulis angered as Chadli sidelined for ´foreseeable future´|
|Neymar to join Ronaldo at Real Madrid? Zidane speaks out on PSG star|
|Edinburgh banking on Barclay after signing Scotland captain|
|Guardiola & Sane complete Man City award double|
|Five-try Holmes makes history as Kangaroos batter Samoa|
|Brave Chapecoense secure top-flight status|
|Mooney seals Australia Women´s Ashes victory|
|Tottenham have overtaken Arsenal as north London´s best - Sherwood|
|Brisbane Roar 3 Melbourne City 1: Papadopoulos at the double as hosts finally win|
|Seaman: Wenger must start Lacazette against Tottenham|
|I am more than just a goal machine - Ronaldo ignores Real Madrid criticism|
|Pujara shows resistance on another rain-affected day|
|Skriniar not interested in Barcelona speculation|
|France need Benzema, says Aulas|
|Warne: Australia look confused ahead of Ashes|
|Donald recovering after being hospitalised with chest pains|
|Youngs braced for ´confrontational and confident´ Wallabies|
|The Breakdown: A statistical look at Saturday´s rugby internationals|
|Van Dijk could leave Southampton in January|
|Sanchez snubbed Barcelona switch - Osorio|
|Malan posts century as England impress in Townsville|
|Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid: Simeone and Zidane face dangerous, defining Derbi|
|Aubameyang baffled by Dortmund suspension|
|Harden scores 48 points as Rockets soar|
|George, Hauritz and Tendulkar – Ashes surprise Paine´s last Test|
|He´s a class player - Hussey approves of Marsh recall for Ashes|
|Brown stars as Steelers crush Titans|
|Smith backs ´terrific´ Paine ahead of Ashes|
|Celtics claim 14th straight victory with comeback win over Warriors|
|WATCH: Brown makes incredible helmet catch for Steelers|
|´Surprised´ Paine thought Test career was over|