Radja Nainggolan scored on his Inter debut as Luciano Spalletti's men won 3-0 at Bologna to record their first Serie A victory of the new season.
After a slow start to 2018-19, Inter looked like being frustrated again on Saturday until Nainggolan produced a moment of quality in the 66th minute, netting with his side's first shot on target.
A muscular injury meant the former Roma midfielder's bow was delayed after his €38million move, but it proved worth the wait for fans of the Nerazzurri.
Substitute Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic both struck inside the final eight minutes to wrap up a triumph that, while impressive, was not quite as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
Having collected only one point from their first two games, the win comes as a timely boost to Spalletti, especially given it arrived without injured captain Mauro Icardi, who watched on from the stands.
A quiet first half only produced two significant chances, with Perisic unable to find the target at the far post after a second-minute Matteo Politano cross completely caught out home goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.
In denying Filip Helander at point-blank range at the other end, Samir Handanovic distinguished himself far better. The Sweden defender appeared poised to apply the finishing touch when Danilo headed Erick Pulgar's cross into his path, only for the Inter keeper's reflexes to come to the rescue.
The game looked to be heading towards a goalless draw until Inter gradually upped the tempo after the break, a neat passing move seeing Politano find Nainggolan, who took one touch and buried a low strike into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Federico Santander almost equalised for Bologna when he diverted his header inches wide from Federico Mattiello's threatening delivery, before Inter put the result beyond doubt.
Keita Balde Diao - who was standing in for Icardi in attack - blazed over a glorious late chance after Danilo D'Ambrosio laid it on a plate for him, but Candreva made no mistake when he slotted in Perisic's delivery from six yards out.
And just 79 seconds later it was three, Perisic cutting inside Mattiello with a great dummy before lifting a fine finish over Skorupski.
What it means: Relief for Spalletti
Winning without Icardi will come as a huge relief to Spalletti. After a week where Inter were pitted against Tottenham, Barcelona and PSV in tough Champions League draw, potentially falling seven points behind the leaders domestically would have been far from ideal.
Pat on the back: Fine start for Nainggolan
Nainggolan had a penalty appeal denied on his Inter debut prior to the break, and threatened with an excellent strike from long-range. He bowed to the crowd after scoring the goal that opened the game up just as Inter were running out of ideas, and came off to applause from the away support with 12 minutes remaining.
Boot up the backside: Keita fails to take chance to shine
With Icardi in the stands, Keita had a great opportunity to establish his importance to the squad early in the season. However, he fired one shot into the side netting before slicing his excellent late chance when the game was still in the balance at 1-0. Instead, it was Politano, Perisic and Nainggolan behind him who made the difference.
Inter have a huge week after the international break with Serie A matches against Parma (home) and Sampdoria (away) either side of their crucial Champions League opener against Tottenham at San Siro. Winless Bologna, meanwhile, are away to Genoa.
Key Opta stats:
- Inter have found the net in each of their last nine league games at the Dall'Ara against Bologna – the Nerazzurri are unbeaten in the process (W5 D4).
- Bologna have failed to score in each of their first three league games for the first time in their Serie A history.
- Inter attempted 808 passes and completed 729: both record for the Nerazzurri in a single Serie A match since Opta started collecting this data (2004-05).
- Inter scored three goals with only three shots on target.
- Antonio Candreva found the net in Serie A for the first time since 15/04/2017 (vs AC Milan), 504 days ago.