Napoli moved level with Serie A leaders AC Milan on Sunday thanks to a 3-1 win at Atalanta which put distance between them and Inter Milan ahead of the champions' showdown at Juventus.
Hunting a first league title since 1990 when Diego Maradona was still strutting his stuff in Naples, Napoli are six points ahead of third-placed Inter after a third straight win which came without suspended star striker Victor Osimhen.
They prevailed in Bergamo thanks to Lorenzo Insigne's early penalty, a sweet Matteo Politano volley eight minutes before half-time and a stunning late breakaway finished by Eljif Elmas just as Atalanta were pushing for a leveller after Marten De Roon pulled one back in the 59th minute.
Luciano Spalletti's side sit side-by-side on 66 points with Milan, who host Bologna on Monday night hoping to re-establish their lead of three and move even further ahead of either Inter or Juve.
Napoli were given a huge helping hand by captain Insigne, who was heavily criticised after Italy failed to reach a second World Cup in a row but opened the scoring and also laid on Politano's strike with a delicate free-kick.
"I'm disappointed that Italy aren't going to the World Cup, I can't do much apart from ask forgiveness from the fans," said Insigne, who was positive about his team's title hopes.
"We believe, we've always believed. There are still seven matches to go and they're seven big matches so we need to face them in the right way."
Defeat for Atalanta continued their dismal home record this season and leaves the one-time title hopefuls in seventh, eight points behind fourth-placed Juve and with little realistic chance of a place in the Champions League.
De Roon's powerful header looked briefly to have given Atalanta hope of snatching a draw but instead they fell to their fifth loss of the campaign at the Gewiss Stadium, where they have won only four league fixtures.
They have Fiorentina just a point behind them following their 1-0 win over Tuscan rivals Empoli in Sunday's early match.
"We're out of the Champions League race, I think, it's a pretty big gap now," De Roon told DAZN.
"It's a shame... we created, we pressed, we dominated, but if you don't score and you conceded goals like we did then there's nothing you can do."
Udinese moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone thanks to a 5-1 home thumping of Cagliari, who lost their fourth straight match and remain just three points above the bottom three.
Joao Pedro opened the scoring for Cagliari in the 32nd minute with his first goal since January but Rodrigo Becao levelled six minutes later and it was one-way traffic after that.
Beto struck twice within minutes either side of half-time with a first-time strike from Roberto Pereyra's cross and a simple one-on-one finish past Alessio Cragno.
Nahuel Molina made absolutely sure with a peach of a goal just before the hour mark when he strode onto Isaac Success' through ball and clipped a beautiful finish over Cragno, and Beto completed his treble with a close range header with 17 minutes still to play.