The Italians were the more dominant side in Liege but Giovanni Trapattoni's men held on after goals at the end of either half caught the former World Cup winners out
Keith Andrews scored the first goal of the game, taking advantage of slack Italian marking from a quick free-kick taken by Stephen Hunt, and Simon Cox added a late second from Hunt's low cross to give the Irish a morale-boosting victory going into the summer break.
It was the Azzurri who enjoyed the majority of possession early on as they made the most of the slick conditions, but Cesare Prandelli’s side took their time making any real openings before a flurry of opportunities around the half-hour mark.
Claudio Marchisio and Giampaolo Pazzini worked a great move but the Inter striker failed to trouble David Forde as Stephen Ward slid in, and moments later Nocerino fired an excellent shot from distance from the left that forced Forde to tip over. Marchisio then threatened to get a shot in from five yards to the left of goal, but the keeper was quick to advance.
Italy’s profligacy was punished on 36 minutes with a fabulous opening goal. After Hunt backheeled the free-kick to Andrews, the Azzurri stood off, allowing the Blackburn Rovers midfielder to take a touch before firing low through a scattering wall and beyond Emiliano Viviano.
The Azzurri almost hit straight back after a fantastic run by Giuseppe Rossi. The Villarreal striker beat three men before squaring for Cassani, whose cross was struck wide on the turn by Pazzini.
With Cassani making good yardage down the right, Italy started well in the second period, but substitute Alessandro Matri failed to control, then Pazzini could only do so by handling when well placed.
Further half-chances were fashioned from excellent work by Cassano and Sebastian Giovinco, but the equaliser remained elusive as Prandelli made a succession of changes, with Giovanni Trapattoni responding with only minimal switches before the latter stages as he saw an opportunity to put one over on his old side.And they held on, with Giovinco firing over from a free-kick late on from one of Italy's better chances before Hunt broke away to cross low for Cox, who slid in at the far post to complete the victory.
The result marks Trapattoni's first win against his country of birth since taking the Ireland job, having seen his side earn two draws from the clashes with the Azzurri in the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.