Mario Balotelli scored on his first Milan start, but they almost threw away a 3-0 lead, beating Udinese 3-2.
The Rossoneri were coming off a 3-2 victory over Palermo and gave Balotelli his first start since returning from Liverpool, partnering Carlos Bacca. There was a full Serie A debut for 18-year-old defender Davide Calabria, as Jeremy Menez, M’Baye Niang, Andrea Bertolacci, Ignazio Abate, Luca Antonelli, Philippe Mexes and Juraj Kucka were injured. Udinese missed Guilherme, Alexander Merkel and banned Panagiotis Kone.
The Friulani were in crisis, losing seven of their last eight Serie A games and five on the trot at home, their worst domestic run since 1961.
Balotelli passed a late fitness test after a muscular problem, but marked his first start with a goal straight away. He earned a free kick 20 metres out and curled it into the near top corner, leaving Orestis Karnezis rooted to the spot. The often moody striker was grinning from ear to ear.
Cyril Thereau’s header whistled just wide, but the Rossoneri doubled their lead with another well-worked goal. Jack Bonaventura chested down a marvellous Riccardo Montolivo pass over the top and on the volley placed a delicate finish past Karnezis from 12 yards.
Balotelli was booked for a crunching tackle on Ali Adnan, but immediately apologised, while Keisuke Honda didn’t make the most of a Maurizio Domizzi error.
In first half stoppages, Cristian Zapata got the third with a towering header from Bonaventura’s corner, which bounced right in front of Karnezis.
Udinese introduced Duvan Zapata for a trident, facing his distant cousin Cristian, and it immediately made a difference. With more bodies in the box, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu was left unmarked to drill home from 12 yards.
The Friulani seemed to be transformed and got another one back moments later, as a corner was not cleared effectively and Cyril Thereau rolled across for Duvan Zapata to tap in.
The hosts had a series of corners and on the counter Bonaventura fired wide, but it was almost 3-3 when Diego Lopez bravely smothered at Therau’s feet on an inspired Di Natale pass.
Duvan Zapata’s cross-shot stung Diego Lopez’s gloves and Maurizio Domizzi turned a free header over. Milan were pinned back in the closing stages, as Diego Lopez flew to punch a Bruno Fernandes screamer out from under the bar, then on the resulting corner Wague’s header hit the side-netting.
In stoppages the tension exploded, as Bruno Fernandes received a second yellow card and protests dragged on long after the final whistle.
Sent off: Bruno Fernandes 93 (U)