Napoli entered the game full of confidence after winning their last three matches to increase the pressure on Roma in the battle for Champions League qualification but defeat in Tuscany a day after Rudi Garcia’s side beat Sassuolo 3-0 has left Napoli five points adrift of the top three with five games left.
Empoli had gone four games without a win but took the lead at the Carlo Castellani stadium through an early Massimo Maccarone strike and doubled their advantage in comical fashion just before the interval.
Napoli goalkeeper Mariano Andujar parried a Mirko Valdifiori cutback off the face of his team-mate Miguel Britos and could do nothing to stop the ball rebounding into the net.
Things got worse for the visitors when Riccardo Saponara made it 3-0 right on half-time, although another own-goal by Vincent Laurini gave Napoli some hope in the second half.
Less than ten minutes remained when Spain defender Raul Albiol became the latest player to put through his own goal and ended any hopes Benitez’s men had of snatching a result.
Marek Hamsik did pull another goal back in stoppage time, but Napoli must now lift themselves quickly before hosting AC Milan at the weekend and then going into the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Dnipro of Ukraine next week.
The Europa League might be Napoli’s best path to the Champions League next season as the winners of the competition are now guaranteed a spot in the competition next season.