A last-minute penalty try denied Aironi a priceless victory over the Dragons as the Welsh region prevailed 10-9 at Stadio Zaffanella on Sunday.
This was seen as a must-win game by both sides, who occupied the bottom two positions in the PRO12 table when the match kicked off.
The Dragons headed into the game on the back of a morale-boosting 21-10 victory over Edinburgh, while Aironi were seeking to end a run of three consecutive defeats. Joe Bedford was missing for the Dragons with a shoulder injury, while Giulio Toniolatti was unavailable for Aironi due to a Six Nations call-up from Italy.
The entertainment on show reflected the two teams' lowly positions in the table, with try-scoring opportunities few and far between.
The score was level at the interval as the sides exchanged penalties. Jason Tovey put the visitors ahead on 15 minutes, before Naas Olivier levelled with the boot on the stroke of half-time.
Both teams were reduced to ten men before the interval, with Aironi's Matteo Pratichetti and the Dragons' Andy Tuilagi shown yellow cards for unrelated infringements.
Mid-way through the second half two Olivier penalties in three minutes saw Aironi open up a six point lead.
Tom Brown broke for the Dragons shortly after, but the ball was spilled and the attack came to nothing.
The game's first try came in the dying minutes and it proved to be the difference between the two sides. The penalty try awarded at the scrum was manna from heaven for the Dragons, but harsh on the Italians, who'd defended heroically for large periods of the second half.
Pen: Olivier 3
Aironi: 15 Alberto Benettin, 14 Matteo Pratichetti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Carlo Del Fava, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Roberto Santamaria (capt), 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Emiliano Caffini, 23 Riccardo Pavan.
Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Andy Tuilagi, 12 Ashley Smith (capt), 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Tom Brown, 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Jevon Groves, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Dan Way, 19 Royce Cadman, 20 Hugo Ellis, 21 James Leadbeater, 22 Lewis Robling, 23 Will Harries.
Referee: Leo Colgan
Assistant Referees: Stefano Roscini, Giuseppe Vivarini
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini
TMO: Mauro Dordolo