Milan held off a late Salernitana fightback to make a winning start to 2023 as a 2-1 victory kept them in pursuit of Serie A leaders Napoli.
First-half goals from Rafael Leao and Sandro Tonali looked to have been more than enough for Stefano Pioli's side to begin the new year with a comfortable win.
But Federico Bonazzoli's late finish set up a nervy finale at Stadio Arechi, with the Rossoneri just about able to hold their nerve and secure the three points.
Having survived a relegation battle last season, Salernitana came close to a major scalp and Davide Nicola will take heart from their late rally against the Scudetto holders.
The visitors did not have to wait long for the opener, with Leao rounding Guillermo Ochoa in the 10th minute to slide in a low finish after latching onto Tonali's looped pass.
Tonali got in on the act himself only five minutes later, Brahim Diaz pouncing after Ochoa's save and nudging it back for the midfielder to power home.
A chance to make it a three-goal lead was scuffed shortly after the restart, when Olivier Giroud tapped a shot straight to the goalkeeper.
That miss looked like it might come back to haunt Milan when Salernitana found an unexpected response heading into the closing stages through Bonazzoli's close-range finish.
But the hosts were unable to find a second to force a result as the Rossoneri hung on to take a win crucial to their ambitions of defending their title.
What does it mean? Milan cling on for win
Having been in cruise control for much of the match, the visitors' late concession sparked a flurry of action as they alternatively sought to find a third goal of their own and shut up shop.
But they walked away deserved winners again. No side has scored in more Serie A games this season than they have, having found the net in 14 of their 16 matches.
Leao leads the way
Once again, the Portugal international popped up on the scoresheet for Pioli's men, helping them on the path to a much-needed victory.
His latest finish takes him to seven goals this season in Serie A, more than any other Milan player across the campaign.
Hosts toil in defeat
With just the one shot on target resulting in a consolation goal in the end, it was a tough day at the office for Salernitana.
That said, their late finish ensured they kept their home scoring streak alive, having now netted in their last seven games on their own turf.
Key Opta Facts
- Milan have won six of the last seven (D1) opening Serie A games of a new year.
- Salernitana have lost three Serie A games in a row for the first time since April 2022.
- Milan have won in all six Serie A games in which Sandro Tonali has scored at least a goal.
- Milan had 10 shots on target in this match, their second-highest tally in a top-flight game this season (Spezia - 11).
Rafael Leao has scored in the first AC Milan match of the year in all of the last 3 Serie A campaigns: 2023, 2022, 2021.
Salernitana travel to Torino on Sunday, while Milan head home to face Roma.