Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A as they overcame a spirited Sampdoria side 2-1 at the Allianz Stadium.
The visitors thought they had stolen a point in Turin with a last minute Riccardo Saponara strike, only to see the goal rule out in a game dominated by VAR decisions.
Cristiano Ronaldo's inclusion from the outset proved telling, as he fired home from the edge of the area inside the opening two minutes to give Juve a dream start. The hosts continued to dominate possession in the opening exchanges and fashioned an opening as Paulo Dybala exchanged passes with Giorgio Chiellini before curling just wide of Emil Audero's far post.
Sampdoria, despite offering very little in an attacking sense, were thrown a lifeline after a prolonged VAR decision saw Emre Can harshly penalised for handling Dennis Praet's corner in the box. Fabio Quagliarella lashed the ball home from 12 yards to restore parity in Turin.
An open start after the break saw Blaise Matuidi test Audero with a fizzing drive which the Juventus loanee was equal to, showing excellent reactions to palm the strike away. Juve's pressure told as Gian Marco Ferrari was adjudged to have handled from a corner, giving Ronaldo the opportunity to restore Juve's lead and double his tally for the afternoon.
With Juve seemingly seeing the game out, an under-hit pass from Mattia Perin gave Saponara the chance to equalise, with the Italian firing into the top corner spectacularly. VAR again took centre stage though as the strike was ruled out correctly for offside in a dramatic end to the game.
Key Talking Point
Following last week's disappointing draw with Atalanta, Massimiliano Allegri will have been wary heading into a fixture against this season's surprise package in Sampdoria, who prior to the game had gone on a six game unbeaten run.
Ronaldo's influence for his new side was evident from the outset and the Portuguese was pivotal to his side's play.
A concern for Allegri will be his side's apparent reliance on their summer signing for a creative spark. The Bianconeri looked short of ideas in attack and were frustrated for large period by Sampdoria's diligent defence, and were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a harsh handball.
Starting XI: Perin (5);De Sciglio (6), Rugani (6), Chiellini (6), Sandro (7); Can (4), Pjanic (7), Matuidi (5); Dybala (6), Mandzukic (6), Ronaldo (8*).
Substitutes: Costa (5), Bernadeschi (5).
Miralem Pjanic dictated play for Juve and kept things ticking over in the middle of the park with his impressive range of passing. The Bosnian's delivery from set-pieces was excellent, while he dropped in to negate the threat of Gaston Ramirez in the no.10 role for the visitors.
Emre Can looked a little off the pace and was clumsy in possession. The German tried to use his physicality to dominate Sampdoria's midfield but failed on a number of occasions to get the better of the experienced Albin Ekdal. With competition for places in midfield fierce under Allegri, Can must improve if he is to see more game time.
Key Talking Point
Irrespective of the result, Marco Giampaolo will not doubt take a number of positives from his side's showing. Sampdoria's recent run of results, including wins against Parma, Empoli and Verona have seen them climb to fifth in the table. Juve, however, presented a serious test of his side's credentials as top four challengers.
Sampdoria's threat on the break meant they were always in the game, while their pressing from the front causing Allegri's side all sorts of problems as they struggled to find their fluid best. Saturday's performance is certainly something to build on for Giampaolo.
Starting XI: Audero (7); Sala (6), Ferrari (5), Colley (6), Muru (5); Praet (6), Ekdal (7), Linetty (5); Ramirez (5); Quagliarella (7*), Caprari (6).
Substitutes: Saponara (6), Defrel (5), Jankto (5)
Fabio Quagliarella, now 35, has been a revelation this term for Marco Giampaolo's side and has rolled back the years with a streak of match-winning performances. The veteran has now scored in his last nine appearances for Sampdoria, and will be crucial to his side's chances of sustaining a challenge for European places.
Audero's performance is also worth a mention, after a string of impressive saves in the second half.
Hard to pick out one player in particular, in what was a solid team performance from this season's wildcards. Gaston Ramirez worked hard for his side after recent criticism from fans for a lack of effort, though struggled to show his creative qualities as Matuidi and Pjanic snuffed out any opportunities for the Uruguayan to display his flair.
Juve are next in action in the Coppa Italia, as they take on Serie A strugglers Bologna in Turin before taking on Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana final.
Sampdoria, meanwhile, will look to return to winning ways as they take on Milan in the Coppa Italia, where a win for Giampaolo's side will give real confidence going into the second half of the season.