Tiemoue Bakayoko snatched victory in the final minute for Napoli, as Udinese will rue wasted opportunities.
The Partenopei were in crisis mode after one win and a draw in the last five rounds, with Dries Mertens and Victor Osimhen still injured, Kalidou Koulibaly fit for the bench, so Amir Rrahmani got his first start. The Friulani were without a win in five and missed Fernando Forestieri, Ignacio Pussetto, Stefano Okaka and Mato Jajalo, so Roberto Pereyra took a more advanced role.
Lorenzo Insigne fired wide in the opening minute after the ball was given away cheaply in midfield, then Rodrigo De Paul fired over from the edge of the area.
VAR came to the rescue when Kevin Bonifazi clearly wiped out Hirving Lozano, a foul the referee and linesman somehow failed to spot in real time. Insigne converted with a hop, skip and jump to beat Juan Musso.
However, Napoli also lost Kostas Manolas to a muscular problem moments later. Rodrigo De Paul sent Pereyra clear, but the ex-Watford man couldn’t keep his finish down.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo whipped a great cross in from the right for Lozano’s diving header, but Juan Musso flew for an equally acrobatic save. On the resulting corner, Lozano again had a shot deflected, forcing Musso to fingertip over the bar.
However, Rrahmani showed how rusty he is in his first start for Napoli, as his weak back-pass for Alex Meret was intercepted by Kevin Lasagna, depositing into the empty net.
It was almost 2-1, as De Paul threaded through to release Lasagna, denied only by Meret sticking out a trailing boot.
Meret also denied Jens Stryger-Larsen one-on-one, as Rrahmani was at fault there too, caught in possession by Lasagna.
Despite the shortage of centre-backs, Rrahmani was visibly shaken and made way for Mario Rui. The visitors had a double chance to restore their lead, Musso getting down for a one-handed save on Piotr Zielinski’s low volley and Insigne curling the rebound wide.
Udinese were consistently dangerous on the counter, Meret keeping out Lasagna on another De Paul assist, then the Argentine firing just wide himself from distance.
Insigne’s volley from a corner was well smothered, and Napoli finally found the net in the last minute of normal time. A set play was floated into the six-yard box, where Tiemoue Bakayoko made the most of slack defending to turn a free header into the far top corner.
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