Giacomo Bonaventura scored the only goal of the game as AC Milan made it 10 matches unbeaten in all competitions with a 1-0 Serie A win over Sampdoria.
The Rossoneri have experienced a significant upturn in fortunes under Gennaro Gattuso and they dominated an eventful contest at San Siro.
Ricardo Rodriguez saw a seventh-minute penalty saved, but Milan were not punished for his profligacy and Bonaventura netted what proved to be the decisive goal six minutes later.
But the remaining 77 minutes were filled with incident, Milan seeing a Leonardo Bonucci effort ruled out for offside while Hakan Calhanoglu struck the crossbar.
A lifeless Sampdoria team did not offer a genuine threat until Gianluca Caprari squandered a late chance to equalise and seventh-placed Milan now move level with them on 41 points, just seven points adrift of a Champions League qualification berth.
Next for Milan is the second leg of a Europa League round-of-32 tie with Ludogorets that they appear to have wrapped up thanks to a 3-0 victory in the first meeting, before Gattuso's credentials will receive their sternest test yet with league games against Roma and Inter either side of the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final with Lazio.
2 - The last two Giacomo Bonaventura's goals in Serie A arrived thanks to Davide Calabria assists. Duo. #MilanSampdoria— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 18, 2018
Milan threatened inside the first three minutes as Bonaventura headed straight at Emiliano Viviano from a Riccardo Montolivo cross but a better opportunity was squandered by Rodriguez four minutes later.
Samp left-back Nicola Murru blocked a cross from the right with his arm and referee Daniele Doveri duly pointed to the spot.
However, Rodriguez's penalty was a tame one and Viviano got down low to his left to turn the ball behind.
But Viviano was picking the ball out of his net soon after as Milan broke the deadlock with a wonderful move.
Suso played in Davide Calabria down the right and he whipped in a magnificent delivery for the onrushing Bonaventura, the unmarked midfielder firing a first-time volley into the ground and underneath Viviano.
Suso and Calhanoglu both had efforts deflected wide as Milan spent much of the first half camped in the Samp half, but the visitors were aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty of their own, the VAR opting not to punish Calabria's apparent handball with a spot-kick.
But Samp were grateful to the VAR shortly before half-time when Suso and Calhanoglu orchestrated a well-worked free-kick, the latter's low cross turned in by Bonucci, only for the centre-half to be correctly adjudged to have been offside on review.
The frame of the goal rescued Samp seven minutes after the restart as Calhanoglu's fierce effort from the edge of the area cannoned off the top of the crossbar, before Suso shot across the face of goal with the net at his mercy at the far post.
Vivano denied both Calhanoglu and Calabria to keep Samp in it but, despite a late scare when substitute Caprari fired wide at the far post, Milan gained ground on fourth-placed Inter to perhaps open another avenue back into the Champions League.
1 goal scored / gol segnato— AC Milan (@acmilan) February 18, 2018
1 penalty missed / rigore sbagliato
1 goal disallowed / gol annullato
3 BIG FAT POINTS / IMPORTANTISSIMI PUNTI#MilanSampdoria 1-0
14' @giacomobona pic.twitter.com/ytUGBLI0x4
Key Opta stats:
- AC Milan has won five out of their last six league games, the same amount of wins as in the previous 17.
- Milan are now unbeaten in their last seven league games (5W 2D) for the first time since February 2016.
- Sampdoria have lost six out of their last nine away games played in Serie A (2W 1D).
- Sampdoria did not find the net in this game, after they have scored at least a goal in each of their previous eight league matches.
- Giacomo Bonaventura has scored five goals in Serie A since Gennaro Gattuso took over as Rossoneri head coach, at least two more than any other Milan player.
- The last two Bonaventura's goals in Serie A arrived thanks to Davide Calabria assists.
- Emiliano Viviano has saved three out of four penalties faced in Serie A this season, the joint-most in the top five European leagues.
- Hakan Calhanoglu fired eight shots in this match, the most for an Milan player in a single Serie A game this season.
|Messi is not a leader, he is no Ronaldo, claims Petit|
|Better than Ballack? Hodgson backs Loftus-Cheek to shine against Panama|
|Svitolina and Garcia suffer upsets|
|Walker responds to Ferdinand criticism|
|Djokovic still hungry for more after reaching major milestone|
|Ellis drop goal earns Castleford dramatic win|
|Nigeria hero Musa unsure on Leicester City future|
|X marks the spot - Granit´s rocket sets World Cup first|
|Xhaka and Shaqiri follow the script as Serbia are derailed|
|Chandimal appeal against ban rejected|
|Real Madrid sign teenage goalkeeper Lunin|
|Serbia 1 Switzerland 2: Shaqiri strikes late to clinch crucial comeback victory|
|Suspended Srna joins Serie A side Cagliari|
|Cilic sets up Kyrgios showdown as Djokovic reaches milestone|
|Kudla up next in Federer´s Halle ´fight´|
|Assistant Farbrace to take charge of England for T20 games|
|Hummels hoping to be fit for Sweden clash|
|Hend surges clear as Fleetwood struggles again in Pulheim|
|Giant-killers Mexico embrace sudden weight of expectation|
|Roma complete €17.25m Kluivert deal|
|Pakistan name strong group for Zimbabwe tour|
|Choc Horror: Boullier insists McLaren do not hand out Freddos as bonuses|
|Neymar: Not everyone knows what I went through|
|Poland v Colombia: No time to dwell on regrets, warns Aguilar|
|Musa shows Messi how it´s done to set up critical Argentina showdown|
|Nigeria 2 Iceland 0: Musa brace boosts Super Eagles & Argentina|
|McLaren and Renault open to Ricciardo talks|
|We must win, we have no other choice - Maaloul|
|Germany will respond against Sweden, insists Low|
|´The best among all Asians´, South Korea trust in Son against Mexico|
|Stalin´s bunker an unlikely site for Russia´s World Cup charm offensive|
|England v Panama: Rashford tipped to start as Southgate´s side aim for last 16|
|Erasmus wary of ´wonderful´ Cipriani|
|Hummels to miss Germany-Sweden, confirms Low|
|Murray accepts Eastbourne wildcard|
|St Petersburg madness lines up Neymar and Brazil with heroes of the past|
|Martinez happy to be ´boring Belgium´|
|Japan v Senegal: Squeaky clean Group H rivals eyeing huge step towards last 16|
|Argentina team the worst in history - Ardiles|
|Ravanelli upsets wife by taking Arsenal job...in Kiev|
|Federer moves a step closer to 10th title in Halle|
|Brazil 2 Costa Rica 0: Coutinho and Neymar score in stoppage time to snatch win|
|Andersson: Sweden embracing big occasion as bug sweeps through team|
|LeBron in ´good dialogue´ with Cavaliers|
|Ronaldo will always be the best, Fonte claims|
|Southgate criticises press for England team leak|
|O´Mahony: Series win in Australia would be up there with Grand Slam|
|Khedira thrilled with Can capture, staying with Juventus|
|Samuel open to Higuain-Icardi swap deal|
|It´s just a game - Milligan disappointed by Kruse criticism|
|From drug-testing lab to gastro pub: Sochi happy not to forget dark past|
|Ronaldo will do what is best for him, says Carvajal|
|Kohli: India will feel at home in England|
|Barca target Lenglet yet to decide future|
|Germany perform best under pressure, Klose claims|
|Juanfran signs one-year Atletico Madrid extension|
|Julian Nagelsmann: The remarkable rise of RB Leipzig|
|Sterling: my daughter is Liverpool through and through!|
|Van Bommel to take charge of PSV|
|Hansen urges France not to ´squeal´ over decisions|
|Intelligent Jones will turn England´s fortunes around - Moody|
|Nainggolan confirms imminent Inter transfer|
|U.S. Open missed cut may be blessing in disguise - McIlroy|
|Schmidt in no rush to decide on his future|
|Wallabies treating decider as grand final - Hooper|
|Salah won´t leave World Cup, Egypt FA boss claims|
|Chandimal, Hathurusinghe and Gurusinha admit ´serious´ conduct breach|
|Mikal Bridges´ 76ers dreams dashed in dramatic draft twist|
|They want to pull you down - Sterling hits out at tabloid press|
|Lazaridis wants West Ham to stick with Mexico star Hernandez|