Milan: AC Milan`s six-match unbeaten run in Serie A came to an end in spectacular fashion as promoted Palermo ran out deserved 2-0 winners at a stunned San Siro on Sunday.
Following two consecutive draws, Filippo Inzaghi`s men had been looking for the win that would have hoisted them up to joint third place alongside Sampdoria.
But they were stunned by two goals in the space of three first-half minutes and, despite battling for the equaliser, were left with a second defeat of the season which kept them in seventh place.
Milan are nine points behind leaders Juventus but only three points off the last Champions League qualifying spot now occupied by Sinisa Mihajlovic`s high-flying Samp.
"Hats off to Palermo," Inzaghi told Sky Sport.
"I take full responsibility for the defeat. We`re still growing and so there can always be bumps along the way but maybe we deceived ourselves."
Milan welcomed `keeper Diego Lopez back to the starting line-up following several weeks on the sidelines and midfielder Riccardo Saponara returned after a six-month injury absence.
But Lopez found himself beaten when defender Cristian Zapata, who replaced Alex due to an injury after just three minutes, turned the ball into his own net from a corner on 23 minutes.
An already enterprising Palermo grew in confidence and moments later Lopez did well to stop a shot from striker Paolo Dybala with a trailing leg.
However the `keeper was left clutching at thin air when the diminutive Argentinian muscled his way past Zapata on the left and fired a fine left-footed strike inside the far post on 26 minutes.
Milan saw several chances go amiss, notably when Andrea Poli`s attempted chip trailed wide of the target after Stefano Sorrentino came rushing out of goal, while Fernando Torres saw a glancing header skim the post.
The Spaniard also saw a diving header go wide but the hosts quickly ran out of ideas as Palermo hung on to record a famous win that had coach Giuseppe Iachini purring.
"Tonight we played a great game against a great side. We played with personality and aggression and deserved the win," said Iachini.
Earlier, Sampdoria reclaimed third spot thanks to a 3-1 home win over Fiorentina, while city rivals Genoa fought back to claim a precious 4-2 away win at Udinese.
Sampdoria went in for the half-time break 2-1 up after Angelo Palomba, from the penalty spot, and Luca Rizzo both opened their account for Mihajlovic`s side with Stefan Savic reducing the arrears on the stroke of half-time.
Samp made sure of all three points in the 77th minute when Eder pounced to beat fellow Brazilian Neto in the Fiorentina goal.
Sampdoria now trail leaders Juventus by six points, with Roma in second three points off the pace.
Mihajlovic told Sky Sport: "Very few people would have put us in third place after 10 games."
For 22-year-old Rizzo, it was an emotional outing.
"As a Genoa boy who grew up supporting Sampdoria, to score under the south stand was fantastic," he said.
Napoli, 2-0 winners over Roma on Saturday, sit in fourth place a point behind Sampdoria with Genoa moving up to a surprise fifth thanks to an entertaining comeback win at the Friuli Stadium.
Udinese got off the mark thanks to veteran striker Antonio Di Natale.
Giovanni Marchese levelled with a great half-volley on 21 minutes and three minutes later Falque Iago restored the visitors` lead.
Silvan Widmer pulled Udinese level four minutes before the break but Genoa were back in front when former Juventus and Milan reject Alessandro Matri struck 10 minutes after the restart and Juraj Kucka made sure of the points three minutes from full-time.
It was Udinese`s second successive defeat after a 3-0 reverse to Fiorentina in midweek and coach Andrea Stramaccioni said: "In the past two games we`ve lost some humility and hunger."
On Monday Verona are away to struggling Cesena while Lazio, unbeaten in their last five outings, could also clinch third spot with a win at home to Cagliari.