Zebre picked up just their second PRO12 win of the season on Saturday when they defeated champions Connacht 25-22 in Parma.
The victory moves Zebre two points behind rivals Treviso in the battle to secure Champions Cup qualification for next season.
It was Connacht who had the better start, with early tries from Stacey Ili and Craig Ronaldson putting Connacht into a 12-3 lead.
Derick Minnie hit back for Zebre with their first try, and once Carlo Canna knocked over his second penalty on the half-hour mark the hosts moved into a 13-12 lead, which was how it stayed at half-time.
Tommaso Boni’s try then helped Zebre to open a narrow gap over the Irish side, who responded with a John Cooney penalty, leaving the contest finely poised heading into the final quarter.
Minnie’s yellow card looked to have put Zebre on the back foot, but from the resulting Connacht lineout they stole the ball and worked their way upfield for a try to Edoardo Padovani.
Canna converted to put Zebre ahead 25-15, and with Minnie still off Zebre briefly were down to 13 men after another yellow card, this time for Matteo Pratichetti.
Connacht rallied enough to score through Josh Rowland, converted by Ronaldson, which put them in losing bonus territory chasing a dramatic comeback.
But it wasn’t to be, as Zebre saw the game out for an invaluable victory.
Tries: Minnie, Boni, Padovani
Cons: Canna 2
Pens: Canna 2
Yellow Cards: Minnie, Pratichetti
Tries: Ili, Ronaldson, Rowland
Cons: Cooney, Ronaldson
Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Oliviero Fabiani, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Edoardo Padovani
Connacht: 15 Josh Rowland, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Stacey Ili, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ivan Soroka, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Eoin Griffin
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Graeme Wells (Scotland), Emanuele Tomo (Italy)