Inter Milan provisionally returned to the top of Serie A on Tuesday with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Bologna that snapped a run of four games without a victory for Roberto Mancini’s side.

Inter Milan were forced to play the final 30 minutes a man down after Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo was sent off, but the visitors were gifted all three points as a defensive error enabled Mauro Icardi to slot home the only goal of the game on 67 minutes.

A first win for the Nerazzurri in over a month saw them move a point clear at the top, although erstwhile leaders Roma could reclaim first place when they host Udinese on Wednesday.

Napoli, Fiorentina and Lazio are all three points behind Inter Milan with a game in hand, while defeat for Bologna left the promoted side still languishing in the relegation zone.

Inter Milan had been the early-season pacesetters after starting the season with five straight wins but a heavy home defeat to Fiorentina last month was the catalyst for a sharp decline in fortunes.

That setback was followed by three straight draws and Inter Milan’s preparation for Tuesday’s match was far from ideal as the team coach arrived at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara less than an hour before kick-off after getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Stevan Jovetic was dropped to the bench with Adem Ljajic handed just a second start of the season as Inter Milan sought a solution to their goalscoring troubles, but it was their defence that was almost breached five minutes in as Amadou Diawara’s searching ball just evaded the outstretched leg of Anthony Mounier.

The visitors had netted just nine goals through nine matches and offered precious little going forward early on as Ljajic’s long-range free-kick that was easily held by Bologna goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa just before the break represented the lone shot on goal in a quiet opening 45 minutes.

Luca Rizzo forced Inter Milan keeper Samir Handanovic into action soon after the resumption with a stinging strike straight at the Slovene, while Marcelo Brozovic saw his effort from distance well held by Da Costa.

Ivan Perisic, on target in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Palermo, should have fired Inter Milan ahead on 59 minutes as Icardi’s low cross broke kindly for the Croat, only for his tame shot to be cleared off the line by Saphir Taider.

Inter Milan were reduced to 10 men on the hour when Melo picked up a second booking, ruling him out of Saturday’s visit of Roma, but the away side were gifted the breakthrough goal shortly after as Bologna right-back Alex Ferrari misplayed an innocuous-looking through ball, with Ljajic racing onto it before squaring for Icardi to apply a simple finish.

Bologna were left in disbelief in stoppage time as Handanovic pulled off an incredible reflex save to deny substitute Mattia Destro and preserve a sixth clean sheet in 10 matches for the league’s meanest defence.