Mauro Icardi and Ever Banega got hat-tricks in an astonishing performance from Inter, who crushed fifth-placed Atalanta 7-1 to leapfrog them in the race for Europe.
This was not only a Lombardy Derby, but also a head-to-head for European qualification with the Bergamo Boys surprisingly going in one point ahead in the table. Roberto Gagliardini faced his former teammates for the first time since the January transfer, but the visitors had Andrea Masiello suspended, Giulio Migliaccio and Boukary Drame injured.
Atalanta had already beaten Inter 2-1 in the reverse fixture and won two of their last four trips to San Siro, including a 4-3 thriller.
Ivan Perisic was inches away from meeting an Antonio Candreva cross from the right, while Papu Gomez saw his daisy-cutter flash inches wide from the edge of the area.
Inter wanted a straight red card when Rafael Toloi clipped Mauro Icardi’s heel just outside the D, but Mattia Caldara was too close by to consider that a clear scoring opportunity. It didn’t matter, as Ever Banega’s free kick ricocheted off the wall and into the path of Icardi to open the scoring.
The Argentine was in sparkling form and goalkeeper Etrit Berisha clattered into him for a penalty. Icardi converted it himself with a cheeky ‘Panenka’ style chip.
Atalanta were shell-shocked and Toloi gave away an avoidable corner, from which Icardi rose to nod in and complete his hat-trick! The striker got three in the space of nine minutes: left-foot, right-foot and header.
Ever Banega added a fourth from close range, meeting the low Antonio Candreva cross from the right, as Atalanta simply vanished.
The pair combined again, Candreva getting to the by-line and pulling back for Banega to meet it from seven yards in an almost identical move.
This was the first time Inter had scored five goals in the first half of a Serie A match since Sampdoria-Inter in March 1964.
Atalanta did shake themselves out of their stupor just before the break, as Remo Freuler placed a precise finish into the far bottom corner from just inside the area.
It wasn’t over and Gagliardini, who left Bergamo in January, scored against his former club. Banega provided the assist and Gagliardini hit a right-foot scorcher under the net.
Gomez tried to get Atalanta back on their feet, but his ferocious finish was palmed away by Samir Handanovic at full stretch.
However, Banega got in on the hat-trick party by curling a low free kick round the wall, leaving Berisha unsighted for Inter’s seventh.