Napoli failed to recapture the Serie A leadership after Jack Bonaventura replied to Lorenzo Insigne, but Milan were saved by the post.
The Partenopei knew a win would take them top of the table, as Juventus were held 0-0 by Bologna on Friday, but were coming off two 1-0 defeats in all competition. The Rossoneri lost 4-0 at San Siro in October, but had improved a great deal and suffered just two defeats in 19 official games. Alessio Romagnoli was only fit for the bench after suffering from flu, though Ignazio Abate and Juraj Kucka returned from injury.
These sides hadn’t shared the spoils since a 1-1 at San Siro in April 2013, followed by four Partenopei victories and one loss, home and away. The most recent stalemate at the San Paolo was a 2-2 thriller in November 2012.
It was a very aggressive start from the hosts, as Riccardo Montolivo risked an own goal to intercept Faouzi Ghoulam’s pull-back.
Kalidou Koulibaly performed two decisive interventions early on to stop Carlos Bacca and M’Baye Niang after the French striker rode three tackles. Jack Bonaventura’s shot was deflected past the near post, while Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne curled over. Cristian Zapata performed an acrobatic overhead kick interception to stop Higuain going clear and then deflected his angled drive wide.
Alex used his body as a shield on Higuain’s shot on the turn, while Jose Callejon scuffed his finish with the weaker left foot straight at Donnarumma.
Callejon had another great chance soon after, but under pressure turned wide from six yards on a Higuain assist, then Pipita’s strike was deflected over for a corner by Abate after he’d dribbled past Alex.
Milan were increasingly pinned back into their own half by a series of set plays and Napoli took a deserved lead before half-time.
Insigne unleashed an angled drive from just outside the box and it took a deflection off Abate to squirm right into the far bottom corner, as Donnarumma was unable to scramble back in time.
However, Milan scored with their first shot on target. Keisuke Honda’s cross was flicked on by Koulibaly, turning it into a perfect assist for Bonaventura to volley in at the far post.
It was a far more even start to the second half and Donnarumma smothered at Insigne’s feet after springing the offside trap on a Callejon long ball, then intercepted a Callejon cross with Higuain ready to tap in from six yards.
Substitute Dries Mertens almost scored moments after coming on, but his angled drive bounced off the inside of the far post and Bacca hoofed the rebound clear.
Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri was sent off on 73 minutes, not for the first time this season, but the hosts were unhappy with a draw and threw on Manolo Gabbiadini too.
Higuain went very close, volleying inches wide from seven yards, as Zapata got a slight deflection on Faouzi Ghoulam’s cross.
Jeremy Menez’s through ball had sent Niang clear on the counter, but the finish was so wide it went for a throw-in. Keisuke Honda was more accurate, his fierce low strike palmed round the base of the upright by Pepe Reina.
Napoli threw everything they had at Milan and deep into stoppages Omar El Kaddouri prodded the ball straight at Donnarumma from close range, while Higuain’s deflected effort was smothered, but the solid Rossoneri held out for a precious point.