It turned out to be a happy parting for the veteran striker, who answered his summons from the bench with a late goal to complete the home side's turnaroundFilippo Inzaghi chose the perfect way to say farewell to AC Milan, coming off the bench to hit an 82nd minute winner to give his side a 2-1 victory at San Siro against already relegated Novara in the final round of Serie A fixtures for the 2011-12 season.
With Massimiliano Allegri's men already assured of second place, the main significance of the match was to give the departing Rossoneri quartet of Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso a chance to say their final goodbyes.
Matters did not go according to plan however, after a terrible first-half display which saw the home side deservedly fall behind to a Santiago Garcia goal.
Milan recovered in the second half though, with substitute Mathieu Flamini equalising in the 56th minute before Inzaghi sealed an emotional comeback with a well-taken strike eight minutes from time.
Allegri named Gattuso and Seedorf in his starting XI, with Inzaghi and Nesta set for cameo appearances by beginning the game among the substitutes.
However, neither veteran warranted a look in on 11 minutes when Kevin-Prince Boateng hobbled off with an injury, with Flamini instead chosen as the replacement from the bench.
In truth, their presence probably would not have made a difference; such was the shambles that was Milan’s first-half display.
Passes frequently went astray and players were caught out of position with regularity as the home side appeared to have commenced their summer holidays early, with Novara clearly the better team.
It was no surprise, then, when the visitors took the lead after 20 minutes.
Marco Rigoni’s seemingly harmless free kick caused panic in the Rossoneri penalty area, which eventually allowed Garcia the opportunity to fire home from a few yards out.
Rigoni’s telling deliveries from set-pieces nearly twice repeated the trick, but both times Andrea Caracciolo could not convert, first testing Marco Amelia with a volley before heading just over the bar.
The Novara No. 10 had a sight on goal himself minutes before the break, but flashed an effort just wide after being afforded space at the edge of the box.
But that miss paled in comparison to the attempt by Alberto Aquilani on the stroke of half-time, as the Liverpool loanee sidefooted wide from point blank range after getting on the end of Djamel Mesbah’s centre.
Milan regrouped after the interval, and went close to a leveller on 52 minutes, when Seedorf’s 25-yard free kick bounced off the post.
Moments later, Ibrahimovic thought he had equalised after a clever turn on the edge of the area freed him for a shot on goal, which was beaten away by Alberto Fontana.
In the 56th minute though, Flamini would show him how it should be done, firing coolly into the bottom corner after good work out wide by Antonio Cassano.
The momentum was clearly with the home side, and Seedorf saw another effort go off target after getting himself into a great position deep inside the Novara box.
For all their increased endeavour, Milan were nearly pegged back just after the hour mark, with a barnstorming run from Rigoni not matching his finish, which was dragged wide of Amelia’s goal.
With 67 minutes gone, Allegri decided to make the first of his two remaining changes, hauling off Cassano for Inzaghi to complete his Milan swansong. And with eight minutes remaining, the veteran striker gave the Rossoneri fans a perfect goodbye present.
A lovely ball over the top from Seedorf found Inzaghi in space, who brought it under control before volleying into the back of the net.
Inzaghi peeled off in an emotional celebration as San Siro went wild, and there was cause for further celebration when Nesta emerged from the bench to replace Aquilani for the final stretch.
Ibrahimovic missed a late chance, but there was no way back for Novara, as Milan ended their Serie A campaign with victory, and one last ovation for their departing heroes.