MILAN - The goals flew in on a rainy evening in Milan as Serie A leaders Inter came from behind to beat cellar dwellers Siena 4-3 and extend their advantage at the top to eleven points.
Massimo Maccarone thought he had opened and closed the scoring to lift the Tuscans off the bottom rung of the table, but Wesley Sneijder grabbed a late equaliser from a free kick before Walter Samuel celebrated his return from injury with a dramatic winner in time added on.
Dejan Stankovic and Thiago Motta returned from suspension and filled holding midfield roles as José Mourinho kept faith with the 4-2-3-1 formation that beat Chievo in midweek, with Quaresma replacing the disqualified Balotelli and Zanetti switching to left-back in place of Chivu.
Keen to impress on his home debut, Goran Pandev rattled Siena's cage in the ninth minute, forcing two good saves from Curci after some great close ball control.
Siena soaked up the early pressure and took a shock lead on eighteen minutes, Maccarone beating Julio Cesar with a long-range shot that travelled at a whopping 108km/hour on its way into the top right corner.
The Nerazzurri's reply came six minutes later. Sneijder picked out Milito on the left edge of the area and the Argentine turned Cribari before sending a crisp low shot beyond Curci and in at the far post.
Free kick maestro Sneijder treated the home fans to a repeat of his goal against Livorno in the Tim Cup last month, giving Inter a 36th-minute lead with a trademark curling shot.
But Malesani's men hadn't come to the Meazza to defend and they equalised within a minute through Ekdal. Unmarked in the area, the Swedish youngster latched on to Reginaldo's low cross from the right and rifled past Julio Cesar.
Walter Samuel replaced Quaresma at the break, but Inter suffered a further injury setback when Stankovic pulled up with a calf problem when emerging from the tunnel, and on came Marko Arnautovic for his home debut.
Siena boss Alberto Malesani replaced the injured Curci with Pegolo and the Bianconeri's substitute goalkeeper was kept busy with saves in quick succession from Sneijder and Arnautovic.
The Bianconeri edged back in front in the 65th minute when Reginaldo tore down the right and sidestepped Samuel before playing to Maccarone, who sidefooted past Julio Cesar.
Mourinho's response was to bring off Thiago Motta and hand Inter Primavera attacking midfielder Alen Stevanovic his competitive debut. The Swiss youngster made an immediate impact with a precise through ball for Pandev but the Macedonian, who appeared to be pushed off the ball, was denied by Pegolo.
The Inter coached looked to be heading for his first home defeat in domestic league and cup matches since 23 February 2002, but Sneijder gave the Nerazzurri a lifeline two minutes from time with an unstoppable thunderbolt free kick that flew in off the post.
In time added on Samuel popped up in the area to finish off a well-worked move, receiving short from Pandev and firing past Pegolo to stun Siena.
Inter 4-3 Siena (HT: 2-2)
Scorers: Maccarone 18, 65, Milito 24, Sneijder 36, 88, Ekdal 37, Samuel 90+3.
Inter: Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 2 Cordoba, 4 Zanetti; 5 Stankovic (89 Arnautovic 46), 8 Thiago Motta (28 Stevanovic 67); 7 Quaresma (25 Samuel 46), 10 Sneijder, 27 Pandev; 22 Milito.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 29 Donati, 31 Alibec, 48 Crisetig.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Siena: 85 Curci (31 Pegolo 46); 87 Rosi, 29 Cribari, 15 Brandao, 3 Del Grosso; 8 Vergassola, 10 Codrea, 12 Ekdal (23 Jarolim 81); 7 Reginaldo (17 Fini 72), 32 Maccarone, 24 Jajalo.
Subs not used: 6 Terzi, 9 Paolucci, 11 Calaiò, 21 Rossi.
Coach: Alberto Malesani.
Referee: Sebastiano Peruzzo (Schio).
Booked: Stankovic 41, Sneijder 75, Codrea 88.
Sent off: Cribari 90+5.