MILAN - Zlatan Ibrahimovic cancelled out Roberto Acquafresca's goal as winter champions Inter held Cagliari in their opening match of 2009.
The result sees the Nerazzurri increase their lead at the top of the table to seven points, with the chasing pack in action on Sunday.
With Maicon out suspended and Stankovic nursing a knee injury, Mourinho made several changes to the team that beat Siena before Christmas, switching Zanetti to left-back and fielding Figo and Chivu on the wings in a four-man midfield.
Inter had the better chances of an end-to-end opening period at a freezing Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, with Chivu firing wide and Maxwell having a shot saved before Ibrahimovic saw an effort go behind.
Ibrahimovic tested Marchetti with a low shot and Biondini had an angled shot saved by Julio Cesar but there was no way through for either side.
Inter continued to churn out chances, with Cruz heading off target, Samuel poking wide a Cambiasso free kick and Muntari crashing wide from distance.
Cagliari's sole reaction was a low Cossu shot that was easily saved by Julio Cesar.
Inter ended the half on a high note with captain Zanetti - in inspirational form - testing Marchetti with two well taken shots.
Mourinho made a forced change at the break with Quaresma replacing the injured Cordoba (back problem) and switching Chivu to his customary central defence role.
The Nerazzurri stepped up a gear and Cagliari were pinned back into their own half as Quaresma and Ibrahimovic both went close.
But Cagliari took the lead against the run of play on 65 minutes when Inter-owned Acquafresca chested down a pass from Fini on the edge of the box and fires past Julio Cesar. Inter 0-1 Cagliari.
Mourinho threw on Mancini for Figo and Crespo for Samuel but Cagliari twice went close to a second with Biondini wasted a golden opportunity and Acquafresca shooting narrowly over.
Inter levelled in the 76th minute when Crespo turned Fini and delivered a low cross to the far post where Ibrahimovic slotted in the equaliser.
Cagliari weren't done though and Acquafresca missed a sitter from inside the six-yard box, firing over after Julio Cesar's superb one-handed parry from Cossu.
Muntari went close to a dramatic winner for the Nerazzurri when he shaved the post after a one-two with Cruz, and Mancini had a goal disallowed for offside in time added on.
Inter 1-1 Cagliari (HT: 0-0)
Scorers: Acquafresca 65, Ibrahimovic 76.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 4 Zanetti, 2 Cordoba (77 Quaresma 46), 25 Samuel (18 Crespo 68), 6 Maxwell; 20 Muntari, 19 Cambiasso, 26 Chivu; 7 Figo (33 Mancini 68); 9 Cruz, 8 Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 11 Jimenez, 23 Materazzi, 39 Santon.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Cagliari: 22 Marchetti; 14 Pisano, 13 Astori, 21 Canini, 31 Agostini; 23 Fini (10 Lazzari 81), 5 Conti, 8 Biondini (18 Parola 90+3); 7 Cossu; 27 Jeda, 9 Acquafresca (32 Matri 84).
Subs not used: 24 Lupatelli, 19 Larrivey, 25 Matheu, 29 Ferri.
Coach: Massimiliano Allegri.
Referee: Nicola Pierpaoli (Florence).
Booked: Muntari 82, Cossu 88.