Napoli took 67 minutes to find the breakthrough, but eventually flattened Bologna 3-0 with Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens and Piotr Zielinski.
The Partenopei were seeking a joint club record eighth consecutive Serie A victory and maybe even a repeat of last season’s extraordinary 7-1 victory here. Raul Albiol was the only player rested from the usual first choice XI, but the hosts gave Rodrigo Palacio his first start in a new 4-2-3-1 system.
Simone Verdi had a bright start, dizzying Elseid Hysaj with a series of step-overs before flashing his angled drive across the face of goal, then saw his curling free kick acrobatically fingertipped on to the bar by Pepe Reina.
Bologna had the ball in the back of the net, but Adam Masina was clearly offside when he tapped in Mattia Destro’s volley. Moments later, Erick Pulgar threw himself in the path of Lorenzo Insigne’s finish from a Faouzi Ghoulam pull-back.
Marek Hamsik’s finish was too close to Antonio Mirante at the near post after a long ball was knocked down.
There was controversy on 33 minutes, as Mertens turned Filip Helander in the box and was blocked off by the defender’s arm across his chest. Helander was booked within three minutes for a similar challenge in midfield, but this time the referee waved play on.
Vlad Chiriches fell awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder, so after several minutes of trying to pop it back into place, he had to make way for Raul Albiol.
Callejon saw his half-volley charged down by brave Pulgar. A Mertes free kick hit the wall and Destro was flagged marginally offside, but had fired straight at Reina’s chest anyway.
Bologna again had the best chance, Verdi threading through for Destro and Reina made himself big, the deflected shot cleared off the line by Kalidou Koulibaly on the hour mark.
Napoli seemed ineffective and uninspired, but broke through with a trademark goal. Insigne placed a long cross to the back post, Adam Masina didn’t cut it out this time and Callejon nodded in from a couple of yards.
Palacio dribbled past Koulibaly, but not Albiol, and Elseid Hysaj scuffed a promising opportunity set up by Insigne.
Mertens sealed up the result when he caught Pulgar in possession and sprinted towards goal, nutmegging Mirante at the near post.
Insigne attempted a third, curling over the bar, but it did come with a great team move. Faouzi Ghoulam completed a give-and-go, then Callejon rolled across for Piotr Zielinski to tap in.
There was almost a fourth, but Allan forced Mirante into a flying save.