Substitute Julio Cruz struck 11 minutes from time to give leaders Inter Milan a laboured 1-0 win over promoted Lecce in Serie A on Wednesday.
Improving AC Milan, who meet their city rivals on Sunday, also had to work hard to secure a 2-1 victory at Reggina thanks to Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato's winner.
The Milan derby promises to be an intriguing affair but both sets of fans will hope for more imagination than their sides showed on Wednesday.
Inter's performance was in stark contrast to Sunday's flowing 3-1 win over Torino.
Often the ball found its way out wide but the movement was static and Lecce had little trouble repelling the early raids.
Coach Jose Mourinho made changes in the second half to try to gee up his troops and it worked when Argentine Cruz, so often Inter's saviour last season, rifled in from the edge of the area from Zlatan Ibrahimovic's knockdown.
After four rounds of matches, champions Inter have 10 points with Lazio, who beat an again under-par Fiorentina 3-0, second on nine points. Atalanta are level with Lazio after a 1-0 win over Cagliari.
Milan, who lost their first two league games, have since instilled some grit in their play and are now up to midtable.
Marco Borriello headed them infront and although Bernardo Corradi managed a scrappy equaliser for traditional strugglers Reggina, the Rossoneri kept plugging away and were rewarded when Pato slammed in Kaka's pullback.
"We had a great reaction to the equaliser. We are improving bit by bit," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti told Sky.
Juventus also tried hard to find a winner in their home clash with Catania but had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Striker Amauri scored the opener with a difficult header but the defence was all at sea when Gianvito Plasmati nodded in the leveller. Amauri and striker partner Alessandro Del Piero then both hit the bar in the same move but the ball would not go in.
AS Roma's poor start to the season continued when they went down 3-1 at Genoa with striker Diego Milito scoring twice. Daniele De Rossi, who grabbed Roma's goal, was sent off for two bookings in the second half.