Italy produced a stirring second-half fightback to beat Uruguay 38-17 and avoid a shock World Cup defeat at Stade de Nice.
In only the second-ever meeting between the sides, Uruguay stunned their Pool A rivals before the break to lead 17-7 as Italy finished the first half with 13 men.
But Italy turned the screw in the second period with prop Danilo Fischetti and second row Niccolo Cannone both back on the field after yellow cards and powered into the ascendancy with four converted tries.
Uruguay, who gave France a stern test in a 27-12 defeat in Lille six days ago, conceded an early converted try. Italy’s Lorenzo Pani barged over and a TMO review confirmed the winger had grounded the ball.
Italy’s Fischetti was yellow carded for handling in a ruck and the South Americans grew in stature to draw level soon after.
They were held up under the posts, but Australian referee Angus Gardner awarded them a penalty try and showed Italy a second yellow card as Cannone was penalised for his deliberate infringement at the breakdown.
Winger Nicolas Freitas then went over for Uruguay’s second try, this time in the corner, which Felipe Etcheverry converted before the fly-half landed a drop goal to extend his side’s lead just before the interval.
After Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca was sin-binned early in the second period, Italy stormed back, running in four tries in the space of 15 minutes.
Skipper Michele Lamaro, winger Monty Ioane, Cannone and centre Ignacio Brex all went over for converted tries as Italy opened up a 35-17 lead to take the game away from Uruguay before Paolo Garbisi landed a late penalty.
Italy v Uruguay - Match Highlights
Italy v Uruguay - Match Stats
Italy (7) 38
Try: Pani (7'), Lamaro (46'), Ioane (52'), L Cannone (56'), Brex (61')
Conversion: Allan (8', 47', 53', 57', 62')
Penalty: Garbisi (70')
Uruguay (17) 17
Try: Penalty Try (27'), Freitas (37')
Conversion: Etcheverry (38')
Drop-goal: Etcheverry (40'+2)
Man of the match: Michele Lamaro (Italy)