Without coach José Mourinho on the bench, Roma lost 4-3 at home to Sassuolo on Sunday in a miserable weekend for teams chasing the Champions League qualifying spots from Serie A.
Armand Laurienté scored twice for Sassuolo before Nicola Zalewski pulled one back. But Roma defender Marash Kumbulla was sent off for violent conduct at the end of the first half and Domenico Berardi converted the resulting penalty.
Paulo Dybala got 10-man Roma back into the match at the start of the second half but Andrea Pinamonti all but sealed the result with 15 minutes remaining before Georginio Wijnaldum's late goal.
Roma remained level on points with AC Milan, which hosts relegation-threatened Salernitana on Monday and will be looking to make the most of its rivals' slipups.
Third-place Lazio was two points ahead of Roma and Milan after drawing at Bologna on Saturday, with Inter a point further ahead following its shock loss at Spezia on Friday.
Roma's next Serie A match is against Lazio and Mourinho will again not be on the bench as he serves a two-match ban.
The home side was looking to move level with Inter in second and almost took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock as Wijnaldum was sent clear but he fired straight at Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli.
Instead it was Sassuolo which took the lead in the 13th minute as Roma lost the ball in midfield to spark a counterattack. Davide Frattesi's shot was charged down by Chris Smalling, then Pinamonti's effort was parried by goalkeeper Rui Patrício but Laurienté tapped in the rebound.
Laurienté doubled his and Sassuolo's tally five minutes later but Roma recovered from the shock to pull one back in the 26th when Zalewski's volley bounced into the ground and over Consigli.
Matters went from bad to worse for Roma on the stroke of halftime when Kumbulla was shown a straight red card for a kick at Berardi, who then drilled home the spotkick.
Roma brought on Dybala at halftime and he had an immediate impact as he sent a swerving effort into the top right corner five minutes later.
Sassuolo almost immediately restored its two-goal advantage but Berardi's shot clipped the crossbar. It did so in the 75th when Laurienté turned provider to set up Pinamonti's goal.
Wijnaldum reduced the deficit in stoppage time.
SCARE FOR JUVE
Juventus survived a scare and missed a penalty but beat bottom club Sampdoria 4-2 to close in on a European spot despite its hefty points punishment.
The Bianconeri, which was deducted 15 points at the start of the year for false accounting, moved to within four points of sixth-place Atalanta.
Juventus appeared to be heading for an easy win after goals from Bremer and Adrien Rabiot put the hosts 2-0 up after 26 minutes.
But Samp hauled itself level in the 32nd after Tommaso Augello and Filip Đuričić scored in the space of less than 90 seconds.
Rabiot doubled his tally in the 64th and Dušan Vlahović had the chance to extend Juve's lead four minutes later — after Augello tripped Juan Cuadrado — but fired the penalty off the left post.
Teenage debutant goalkeeper Martin Turk also pushed a shot from Cuadrado onto the woodwork to keep his side in the match.
Turk also parried a header from Vlahović in stoppage time at point-blank range but Matías Soulé headed in the rebound for his first senior goal.
Relegation-threatened Hellas Verona had the VAR to thank as it earned a 1-1 draw at home to Monza.
Stefano Sensi scored for the visitors to cancel out Simone Verdi's opener in the second half.
Monza thought it had turned the match around completely when on-loan Verona forward Gianluca Caprari netted five minutes later, but it was disallowed on a tight offside decision.
Verona inched to within five points of safety and 17th-place Spezia.
Cremonese was level with Sampdoria, 12 points from safety, after losing 2-0 at home to Fiorentina. Torino won 2-0 at Lecce.
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