Italy came from two down to beat Serbia and move above their opponents into second spot in qualifying Group 9 with one game remaining.
Belgium's 6-0 victory in Cyprus earlier meant Italy would have been eliminated in third place had they lost in Pescara and that scenario seemed likely when Aleksandar Pešić struck twice in the opening 13 minutes for Serbia. Andrea Belotti claimed a double of his own to level the contest before the break before Domenico Berardi completed a dramatic turnaround on 75 minutes.
Pešić gave Serbia the perfect start when his attempted pass for Uroš Djurdjević was diverted back into his path by Luca Antei and the new Toulouse FC striker converted, and the advantage was doubled when Filip Kostić's corner was met by a stunning header from Pešić.
Italy needed a break and it arrived when Cristiano Biraghi's free-kick deflected off the wall to Belotti, who composed himself to beat Marko Dmitrović after 23 minutes. Parity was restored when Uroš Ćosić felled Christian Battocchio and Biraghi finished from the penalty spot in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time.
Samuele Longo and Berardi both passed up good chances to put Italy in front with the latter then striking a post as Radovan Ćurčić's side came under increasing pressure. Italy's persistence eventually told when Berardi rifled in the winner from 25 metres – a fitting final act in a pulsating contest.
"We had an amazing reaction," said Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio. "I had no doubt about my players but we did something incredible. I can say that I was really worried after 15 minutes, when we were losing 2-0. They are growing so fast and they showed it against an excellent team like Serbia."
Italy will overhaul Belgium, who have completed their fixtures and are a point ahead of Di Biagio's men, and win the group if they beat Cyprus on Tuesday. A draw or defeat could allow third-placed Serbia, who are away to Northern Ireland, to leapfrog both the sides above them and take the play-off place guaranteed for the group winners.