AC Milan blew its chance to rise to second in Serie A after being held to a 2-2 draw by Fiorentina on Sunday.
Former Viola captain Riccardo Montolivo was enjoying the perfect return to Florence, scoring the opener before setting Mathieu Flamini up for a second, as the Rossoneri looked set to ease to victory over their fourth-placed hosts, who had been reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Nenad Tomic for a professional foul.
Massimiliano Allegri's men went to pieces in the final quarter, though, gifting their Champions League qualification rivals a point courtesy of two penalties, which were converted by Adem Ljacic and David Pizarro.
The Rossoneri went into to the game as the form side in Serie A and although they started sluggishly, they had the ball in the net less than seven minutes in, with Kevin-Prince Boateng finding the bottom right corner with a wonderfully controlled volley from the edge of the area. Unfortunately for the Ghanaian, Mario Balotelli had just come back from an offside position before he chested the ball back into the path of Boateng.
The Fiorentina goal was breached again just moments later, and this time there was to be no reprieve for the hosts, who were left sickened by both the manner in which they had conceded and the identity of the scorer. Pizarro was in no danger whatsoever when he picked up possession just outside his own box, but he dallied on the ball for far too long, allowing Montolivo to pounce. The former Fiorentina captain picked Pizarro's pocket before advancing into the area and calmly slotting past Emiliano Viviano.
Just as Fiorentina appeared to be coming back to life, the revival was stopped dead in its tracks by the extremely harsh dismissal of Tomovic, who was shown a straight red card for barging Stephan El Shaarawy off the ball after miscontrolling a simple pass. The Viola’s players were furious, though, as Tomovic had not been the last man, and nor had he used his elbow, as El Shaarawy’s reaction to the foul had initially suggested.
To the home side's credit, though, it channelled its frustration in the right way and actually finished the half the stronger, even if it was dealt a further blow by the injury-enforced withdrawal of Stevan Jovetic just before the break.
Milan seemingly put the game to bed with a second goal on 61 minutes. Again Montolivo was involved, the midfielder driving over a low cross from the right wing that Flamini got the faintest of touches on to direct the ball into the net. It was a fitting reward for Flamini, who had failed to make the most of a sublime pass from Ignazio Ibate moments earlier.
Again, though, Fiorentina reacted positively to such a bitter setback, but this time, crucially, it managed a goal, with Ljacic slotting home from the penalty spot after his own mazy dribble into the area had been clumsily halted by Antonio Nocerino.
Milan suddenly looked rattled and then sensationally conceded a second spot kick seven minutes later, with Mattia De Sciglio the culprit this time, allowing Pizarro to level matters by clumsily tripping Juan Cuadrado in the box.
Fiorentina looked the more likely winners at that stage but neither side could find a late winner, meaning the gap between the two sides in the race for third remains at six points.