Napoli were forced to fight to the very end in a five-goal thriller, eventually pushing past Empoli 3-2 and setting up a Coppa Italia quarter-final with Roma or Spezia.
Kalidou Koulibaly was back in the starting XI for the first time since his injury last month, but Empoli saw coach Alessio Dionisi and three players – Leonardo Mancuso, Roberto Pirrello and Szymon Zurkowski – ordered into self-isolation hours before the game. They all tested negative for COVID, but were in close contact with someone who was positive.
Chucky Lozano forced the first fingertip save out from under the bar, but Lozano turned assist man for the goal, putting in a cross from the left for a Giovanni Di Lorenzo diving header from 12 yards. It was a special goal for the defender against his former club.
Empoli very nearly got a spectacular equaliser when the Ryder Matos overhead kick clipped the top of the crossbar with Alex Meret beaten.
Eljif Elmas forced a save, but the visitors got their equaliser with a wonderful finish, as Nedim Bajrami curled into the far bottom corner with a right-foot strike from a tricky angle.
Lozano pounced on a Zappella defensive error and immediately smashed the scorching strike into the far top corner from almost 20 metres out.
Matteo Politano’s deflected strike landed on the roof of the net, but Empoli drew level yet again with Bajrami. It was another ferocious effort from outside the box, which bounced in off the inside of the far post.
Napoli poured forward and Lozano intercepted a poor back-pass, but Lorenzo Insigne ballooned over an open goal, then the Mexico international flashed a shot across the face of goal to skim the far post.
Jacopo Furlan got one hand to the Fabian Ruiz effort, then on a corner, Samuele Ricci cleared Amir Rrahmani’s header off the line, but Andrea Petagna bundled the rebound in from a yard.
Fabian Ruiz thought he’d sealed it with a rocket that thumped the upright with Furlan stranded. It left the tie open and Stefano Moreo’s volley flashed just over the bar, while a mad scramble in the Napoli box during stoppages created panic.
Napoli 3-2 Empoli
Di Lorenzo 18 (N), Bajrami 33, 68 (E), Lozano 38 (N), Petagna 77 (N)
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Demme (Bakayoko 88), Lobotka (Fabian Ruiz 69); Politano (Insigne 61), Elmas (Zielinski 69), Lozano; Petagna (Llorente 88)
Empoli: Furlan, Viti, Casale, Terzi (Asllani 85), Zappella; Ricci, Damiani, Haas (Cambiaso 62); Bajrami (Baldanzi 85); Matos (Moreo 62), Olivieri (La Mantia 72)