Goals from Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito and Cristian Chivu were enough for Inter to slip past ten man Cesena...
A quickfire double from Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito looked to have put Leonardo's men in the comfort zone but the Nerazzurri defenders got too comfortable. Erjon Bogdani scored with a neat touch and finish and then Emanuele Giaccherini did the same to make it 2-2 in the first thirty minutes.
As the break loomed Maicon picked out Cristian Chivu to head a bullet home to make it 3-2 for the hosts. Cesena had their chances despite being reduced to ten men in the second-half but Inter held on to move within six points of Milan at the Serie A summit.
Both teams made a bright start to the game but it was Cesena who took the early initiative. Marco Parolo found himself on the edge of the area in far too much space but caught his drive at goal all wrong and it went well wide.
Inter however were tight with their passing and were an immediate threat to struggling Cesena, Goran Pandev forcing veteran 'keeper Francesco Antonioli into a low save.
Samuel Eto'o finally made the Nerazzurri's dominance pay in the 14th minute. The Cameroon international skipped past one defender with ease before exchanging passes with Diego Milito and blasting low beyond Antonioli into the corner.
One goal brought two for Leonardo's men, as Cesena were still recovering from the first. Eto'o slipped a pass through the Cesena defence for Goran Pandev, who kept his head up and found Diego Milito unselfishly with a low cross for the Argentine to slip into a vacant net.
Milito then made way for Jonathan Biabiany after picking up an early knock.
Erjon Bogdani decided to make a game of Cesena's trip to Milan in the 23rd minute. The Albanian striker lost his marker Marco Materazzi from a cross, controlled and spun his shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Cesena had themselves level before the half hour mark as former Inter player Luis Jimenez chipped a lovely ball over a stranded defence for Emanuele Giaccherini, who took the ball dropping on the volley first-time to steer it past Luca Castellazzi.
Materazzi went into the referee's book ten minutes before half-time with a needless handball in the opposition's half, his deliberate arm preventing Luca Ceccarelli bombing forward down the right.
A lovely move five minutes before half-time saw Cristian Chivu have a delicate chip cleared from the line by Giuseppe Colucci, the midfielder finding himself in the right place to save his team as Inter pressured to regain their lead.
In the first minute of stoppage time Chivu finally had his hat off, the Romanian defender found himself on the end of Maicon's cross to power his header into left corner with Antonioli stranded.
The hosts went in search of a fourth goal to seal the three points but on numerous occasions the Nerazzurri had no runners reaching the back post when crosses came in allowing Cesena to hold on to a glimmer of hope.
In the 66th minute Eto'o thought he had doubled his personal tally but hit the woodwork. Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso linked up down the right to good effect and the later's cross dropped kindly to Eto'o who smashed a wicked shot off the bar.
Cesena were all but undone by their own forward Giaccherini's red card for shooting after the whistle. It was a harsh decision which saw Giaccherini go into the book for diving when clipped by Materazzi early in the second-half and then even more so when the forward finished off a nice pass from substitute Caserta. The referee wasting no time in taking the yellow card out to force Cesena to play the final minutes with ten.
Goran Pandev should have put the match to bed shortly after, glancing a shot under pressure over the bar from close range.
The ten men of Cesena almost provided Leonardo with a shock as time ticked away. Substitute Igor Budan was gifted a poor clearance but placed his shot straight into the arms of the 'keeper and then moments later crashed a tight shot into the side-netting.
The victory puts Leonardo's Inter six points behind leaders Milan with a game in hand while Cesena remain above the drop-zone.