(Reuters) - AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for dissent as his side earned a 3-1 win at Parma in Serie A on Saturday.
Milan eased into a comfortable two-goal lead at the break thanks to goals from Ante Rebic in the eighth minute -- a strike that was brilliantly set up by Ibrahimovic -- and a fine Franck Kessie finish on the stroke of halftime.
Milan's task became much more difficult just before the hour mark, however, as out of the blue, Ibrahimovic was given a straight red card for something he said to the referee, much to the Swede's bemusement.
Riccardo Gagliolo got Parma back into the match six minutes later, but Rafael Leao added a late third for second-placed Milan as Stefano Pioli's men closed the gap to Inter Milan to eight points, with the league leaders facing Cagliari on Sunday.
Parma remain in trouble down in 19th in the standings, four points from the safety zone.
A run of just one win in their previous five matches in all competitions was threatening to unravel Milan’s season, but the visitors raised their game early on against Parma, scoring a fine opener.
Croatian winger Rebic turned provider for Kessie as the visitors doubled their lead, with the Ivorian netting his 10th goal of the campaign to seemingly steer Milan towards a comfortable victory.
What Ibrahimovic said to receive his eighth dismissal in Europe's top-five leagues is unclear, as he did not even appear to be close to the referee when he brandished the red card, but it changed the complexion of the game.
Veteran striker Graziano Pelle then brilliantly set up Gagliolo to get Parma back in it, and Milan all of a sudden looked vulnerable.
But as Parma committed bodies forward for a leveller, Milan broke clear in stoppage time, with Diogo Dalot setting up Leao for the substitute's first goal since early January which sealed the visitors their 13th Serie A away win this season – a club record.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)