When you finally get a result that you have not achieved in about a quarter of a century, it must tell you something. In Inter’s case, a first Serie A win at the San Paolo since 1997 - when many of you reading may have been but babies - delivered the latest sentence in an ever-more-convincing tale. This side has serious intentions of pinching the Scudetto from La Vecchia Signora’s handbag.
The game was billed as a watershed match-up between two coaches who have made grit and determination their stock in trade. The pitchside microphones will rarely have picked up more incessant encouragement than they did while Rino Gattuso and Antonio Conte paced the sidelines in Naples. At the end, it was the Nerazzurri’s title ambitions that were rubber-stamped, while the Partenopei’s hopes of a revival looked more distant than a kind word from the home support for Lorenzo Insigne.
It wasn’t always exemplary from Inter, they were troubled at times, but showed a ruthlessness that is typical of championship contenders. There was an element of defensive error in all three of the goals they delivered, but the strike force of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez is nonetheless a devastating one. They always seem coiled and ready to pounce - often just when you make the mistake of thinking you are playing well and have them under control.
No doubt their perfectionist boss will be annoyed about conceding a goal but, overall, his team was pretty solid at the back. Their hosts huffed and puffed but, despite leaving Diego Godin on the bench, the boys in blue and black dealt with most of the attacking threat they had to offer. The pressure on Juventus was maintained.
There’s an irony in the situation facing Conte’s counterpart in charge of Napoli at this moment in time. Many of us felt that Gattuso was far from the only problem at Milan when he was shown the door there, but we are swiftly discovering that Carlo Ancelotti was not the only issue in Naples either. The feeling of the end of an era is hard to avoid - even if this is still a team capable of producing some attractive football. Although the absences of Dries Mertens and Kalidou Koulibaly would hurt most sides, to be fair.
Their coach was his usual frank and honest self at full-time and it was hard to argue with his assessment. It is no use looking at the league table just now, they need to find some consistency in their results. The time for recriminations over the dramatic decline of a side which for the past few seasons has been a top of the table contender will come at the end of this campaign. At the moment, he needs all his troops pulling in the same direction in a mid-table battle they are singularly unaccustomed to fighting.
But while the volume of prayers for salvation to San Gennaro will have increased, those to Sant’Ambrogio are currently being answered. Inter appear to have been transformed by the Conte treatment and have cut out many of the frailties and failings they have shown in recent seasons. The tightest defence in the division, a midfield with an impressive array of combative and creative options and a 30-goal double act up front is not a bad recipe for staying near the top of the table for some time.
Conte will already have filed away this victory - historic as it might have been - and be gearing up for the next battle. Juventus had earlier sent out their signal with a resounding win over the previously impressive Cagliari side and Lazio continue to harbour their dreams thanks to a come from behind triumph in Brescia.
Now there is the little matter of a clash with Atalanta coming up to keep everyone’s feet on the ground at Inter. If they require any lessons about how hard it is to get across the line and take the title, they only need to ask the team they vanquished so clinically in their key clash at the San Paolo.