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ROME (Reuters) - Modest Crotone, eight points adrift of safety at the start of April, completed one of Serie A's great escapes when they beat Lazio 3-1 on Sunday to avoid relegation on the final day of the season.
Serie A debutants Crotone began the day in the drop zone, where they had spent the entire season, but leapfrogged Empoli who went down instead after losing 2-1 at already-relegated Palermo.
Having taken only 14 points from their first 29 games, Crotone completely turned the tables as they won six, drew two and lost one of their last nine matches to finish on 34.
Crotone got off to a flying start at the tiny Ezio Scida stadium as Andrea Nalini turned in Marcus Rohden's cross and Diego Falcinelli headed in from a free kick to put them 2-0 ahead after 22 minutes.
Ciro Immobile pulled one back for fifth-placed Lazio in the 26th minute and Crotone then had to endure a spell of pressure from the visitors.
The pendulum swung back the Calabrians' way when Lazio had Bastos sent off for a second bookable offence before halftime and Nalini made it safe with his second goal on the hour.
Empoli wasted a flurry of chances against Palermo before Ilija Nestorovski and Bruno Henrique scored for the Sicilians in the final 15 minutes.
By the time Rade Krunic pulled one back, it was too late and the Tuscans were condemned to Serie B after three seasons in the top flight.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon)