Inter needed a last-gasp goal from Rodrigo Palacio to beat Partizan Belgrade after wasting a series of golden opportunities and running risks at the back.
The Nerazzurri were looking for their first home European win of the campaign and welcomed a Partizan side that was yet to score in Group H. Esteban Cambiasso was again used as a centre-back, while Philippe Coutinho and Antonio Cassano supported young striker Marko Livaja.
Inter got off to a strong start, as in the opening five minutes Coutinho burst through a hole in the Serbian defence, then Jonathan tested the goalkeeper and from the corner Livaja blasted over from 12 yards.
The home side wasted another golden opportunity, as Alvaro Pereira went down the left and pulled back for Coutinho who failed to redirect the finish on target from close range.
Coutinho was on sparkling form and skipped past two defenders down the right before setting up Cassano, who could not find the target.
It was almost an extremely costly error, as Partizan Belgrade rattled the woodwork moments later. Lazar Markovic shook off Jonathan’s challenge and his angled drive cracked against the upright.
Coutinho had been Inter’s strongest player, but limped off at the half-hour mark with an ankle injury to make way for Rodrigo Palacio.
Matias Silvestre ran a huge risk on 33 minutes when he brought down Sasa Ilic on the very edge of the box, as the referee had been ready to award a penalty before receiving advice from his assistant.
Aleksandar Mitrovic was inches away from getting a crucial touch on to Lazar Markovic’s smart pass when he was one-on-one with Samir Handanovic.
Javier Zanetti replaced striker Livaja for a more balanced approach and Silvestre wasted a golden opportunity with his weak finish from a corner.
Palacio really should’ve scored soon after, as a ricochet sent him clear on goal but he scuffed the finish with only the goalkeeper to beat from six yards.
Inter were throwing away chances, as moments later Cassano was one-on-one with Nikola Petrovic only to blast over the bar! FantAntonio didn’t seem to expect Palacio’s pass to come through after a Partizan defensive howler.
It remained goalless and open to any result, as Jojic fired straight at Handanovic and substitute Diego Milito was off target with a daisy-cutter.
At the 87th minute Handanovic needed a crucial save at the feet of Lazar Markovic when the Partizan forward was sent clear on the counter-attack. It proved even more decisive, as Inter scored moments later.
Palacio finally broke the deadlock when he was alert to a Milito cross and steered the header past a hesitant Petrovic.
Inter 1-0 Partizan Belgrade
Scorers: Palacio 88 (I)
Inter: Handanovic; Silvestre, Cambiasso, Juan; Jonathan, Mudingayi, Guarin, Alvaro Pereira; Coutinho (Palacio 32); Cassano (Milito 76), Livaja (Zanetti 52)
Partizan Belgrade: Petrovic; Miljkovic, Ivanov, Ostojic, Volkov; Smiljanic, Medo; L Markovic, S Ilic (Jojic 76), Tomic (S Markovic 80); Mitrovic (M Scepovic 68)
Ref: Liany (ISR)