PALERMO - Zlatan Ibrahimovic stunned Palermo with two brilliant goals in the second half as Inter saw off the Rosanero in Sicily.
The result moves Inter clear at the top of the table ahead of next Saturday's 'derby d'Italia' showdown against Juventus.
Ballardini's Palermo attacked and defended in numbers at a packed Renzo Barbera, creating plenty of chances in the first half.
Julio Cesar made saves from Simplicio, Migliaccio and Cavani, with Miccoli wasting three good chances.
Inter went close through Maicon, and Ibrahimovic had a shot blocked by Fontana as the teams went into the break on even terms.
Whatever Mourinho said during his half-time talk was understood to perfection by Ibrahimovic, who took 22 seconds to break the deadlock. The Swede raced to collect a headed pass from Cruz, rolled the ball forward a yard and then unleashed a wicked right-foot shot that went in off the post, giving Fontana no chance.
Ibrahimovic stunned Palermo for a second time 16 minutes later with a blistering free kick that travelled at an incredible 124kmh.
The home side failed to react to the double blow and Mancini had two good chances to make extra sure of the points after coming on for Cruz, missing from a yard out before curling a sweet shot inches wide of the far post.
Palermo sub Lanzafame had a shot blocked in added time, and Ibrahimovic was denied a hat-trick when his shot forced a one-handed save from Fontana.
Palermo 0-2 Inter (HT: 0-0)
Scorer: Ibrahimovic 46, 62.
Palermo: 12 Fontana; 16 Cassani (18 Ciaramitaro 79), 80 Carrozzieri, 5 Bovo, 42 Balzaretti; 11 Liverani (77 Lanzafame 64), 8 Migliaccio, 23 Bresciano (20 Budan 56); 30 Simplicio; 10 Miccoli, 7 Cavani.
Subs not used: 1 Ujkani, 14 Guana, 15 Dellafiore, 24 Kjaer.
Coach: Davide Ballardini.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 2 Cordoba, 25 Samuel, 6 Maxwell; 4 Zanetti, 14 Vieira (16 Burdisso 87), 19 Cambiasso; 20 Muntari (5 Stankovic 65); 9 Cruz (33 Mancini 77), 8 Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 23 Materazzi, 21 Obinna, 45 Balotelli.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Terni).