Rome: Serbian winger Adem Ljajic struck twice including an injury-time equaliser to rescue ten-man Roma in a stunning 2-2 draw with Sassuolo that threatened to derail the Giallorossi`s title hopes on Saturday.
Roma had conceded their first league goals of the season at the Olimpico in a 4-2 win over Inter last week.
But only four days before hosting Manchester City in a must-win Champions League clash, Sassuolo`s unforgiving front line sorely exposed Roma`s defensive weaknesses.
With one eye on Wednesday`s Group E clash in Rome, Rudi Garcia rested a number of regulars with Francesco Totti, Radja Nainggolan and Gervinho all on the bench, while left-back Ashley Cole sat out the second game in succession.
A combination of injury and illness meant Roma were also without Vasilis Torosidis and Leandro Castan, with midfielder Alessandro Florenzi forced into filling in at the right-back position.
Garcia`s defensive woes were made apparent within 18 minutes when Italy striker Simone Zaza pounced twice to give Sassuolo a shock 2-0 lead.
Zaza broke the deadlock in dramatic fashion on the quarter-hour after chasing down a Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa backpass to Morgan De Sanctis.
The Roma `keeper tried to clear but as he did so Zaza slid in to block and the ball bounced into the back of the net.
Incredibly, Roma were trailing 2-0 three minutes later when their offside trap collapsed.
Zaza, in possession, coolly strode towards goal unhindered to fire past a flailing De Sanctis and into the roof of the net from just outside the box.
The last time Roma had conceded two goals before half-time at home in Serie A was against AC Milan on October 29, 2011, although Garcia`s men conceded five before half-time last October on their way to a 7-1 Champions League drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich.
A stunned Roma went about fixing the damage, but promising efforts by Mattia Destro and Ljajic missed the target, while minutes before half-time only a timely intervention from Jose Holebas stopped Domenico Berardi from tapping in from close range.
Roma`s woes deepened only six minutes after the restart when defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi saw red for a second bookable offence after he pulled down Berardi as the winger broke clear.
Kevin Strootman, making his first league start at the Olimpico following his recent return from injury, and Juan Iturbe made way for Nainggolan and Gervinho respectively on 54 minutes.
But despite their arrival, Roma looked far from safety -- De Sanctis had to get down smart to his right moments later to parry a low curling shot from Berardi with one hand.
Gervinho`s pace and enterprise finally paid and a shot from the Ivorian handed Roma a lifeline on 78 minutes when it struck the hand of defender Sime Vrsaljko.
Ljajic stepped up to roll the ball down the middle as Consigli dived to his right.
Ljajic did well to slalom through several players to the left of goal but his cutback for Florenzi was blocked, and although Nainggolan picked up the loose ball the Belgian fired well over.
Roma salvaged a point in the third minute of added-on time when Gervinho`s ball fell to Florenzi on the right just outside the area.
His drive across goal was missed by the entire Sassuolo defence but picked up by a trailing Ljajic to fire home from 10 yards out.
The result kept Roma three points behind leaders Juventus who were held to a 0-0 draw by Fiorentina on Friday.