A late Paul Pogba screamer from outside the area settled an edgy affair with Sassuolo to send the Bianconeri 11 points clear of nearest challengers Roma at the top of Serie A.
Roma’s draw with Chievo on Sunday afternoon presented the league leaders with the chance to go 11 points clear at Juventus Stadium - but it appeared as if the opportunity was destined to slip through their fingers after the Neroverdi defended resolutely throughout.
A moment of magic, therefore, was required to breach a determined opposition rearguard, and that’s precisely what Pogba conjured up when he burst forward and gleefully slammed an unstoppable shot past an Andrea Consigli at full stretch with eight minutes remaining.
In a low-key introduction to the game, strikes from Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal both finished over the top of the bar, while a left-footed effort by Carlos Tevez, dispatched inside the penalty area, also befell a similar fate.
While the Bianconeri dominated proceedings from a possession point of view, they did suffer from a lack of spark in attacking areas, with several moves in the final third failing to come to fruition as Sassuolo defended with due diligence.
Nevertheless, the hosts continued to persist in their quest for an opener and after Giorgio Chiellini saw a header flash over the crossbar on 29 minutes, Tevez was next to go close four minutes later, seeing his fierce shot from outside the box repelled by the fists of Consigli.
A late flurry in the dying embers of the first half saw Tevez work the ball back to Vidal on the edge of the area, only for the Chilean’s fierce effort to take a deflection and roll behind for a corner, leaving the scores locked at 0-0 at the midway stage of the contest.
Juventus emerged for the start of the second half with a spring in their step and a rasping Pogba drive on 52 minutes, tipped just around the post by the fingertips of Consigli, helped up the volume levels in Turin.
With the deadlock still yet to be broken, Massimiliano Allegri elected to shuffle his pack, introducing Simone Pepe and Fernando Llorente to the fray in place of Roberto Pereyra and Alvaro Morata midway through the second half, seemingly with the intention of getting more deliveries from wide areas into the danger zone.
This ploy appeared to be working in the Bianconeri’s favour as Pepe saw plenty of early opportunities to put the ball into the box, although a Leonardo Bonucci blockbuster, executed from all of 30 yards and pushed clear by Consigli, was in fact the next chance manufactured by the hosts on 73 minutes.
Four minutes later, Llorente used his imposing stature to shield the ball from former Bianconeri defender Federico Peluso and spin away from his marker, but his subsequent effort lacked power and was easily gathered.
There was nothing, however, that the goalkeeper could do about the next shot that bore down on him, with Pogba’s strike on the half volley arrowing into the bottom corner to send the home crowd into raptures on 82 minutes.
One more joy awaited the Bianconeri supporters before Sebastiano Peruzzo’s whistle signalled the end of the game – the return of Andrea Barzagli, whose introduction to proceedings drew an enormous cheer from all four stands.
With smiles on their faces, Juventus celebrated a hard-fought triumph that could potentially have a significant say in the destiny of this year’s Scudetto. Next up on their mission to make it four in a row, Palermo on Saturday evening.