Amidst rumours of a switch to a four man defence, Walter Mazzarri, of course, kept his trusty -- or not so trusty -- back three. That meant the rather strange return of 35-year-old defender Gianluca Grava, while Gökhan Inler dropped to the bench.
The opening partenopei chance came after just nine seconds, and had it not fallen for Goran Pandev, it may have gone in. The Macedonian managed to lift the ball over the Catania defence and squeeze in behind, though his shot went harmlessly over the crossbar.
Catania responded with a good attempt of their own after four minutes, as a Francesco Lodi free-kick broke nicely for winger Pablo Barrientos, with the Argentine rifling the ball towards goal first time, only for it to whistle past Morgan De Sanctis' post.
From then-on, the tactical sparring saw little chances created. Catania defended deep and narrow without the ball, and struggled to keep a hold of it when in possession, with their direct passes towards their wingers gobbled up by the hungry Neapolitan defence. Gonzalo Bergessio had a snapshot just after the half-hour, though dragged his effort wide.
Just a minute later, with Napoli struggling to penetrate too, they scored the game's opener. All it took was some tricky work from Colombian wing-back Camilo Zúñiga, whose cross-shot drilled towards the far post found Marek Hamšík, who had ghosted in behind the elefanti defence, tapping his ninth goal of the season into the empty net.
Edinson Cavani nearly made it two via a free-kick from the edge of the area minutes later, though his shot bounced off the bar. Gianluca Grava made a typically useful contribution to the game when he dumped Alejandro Gómez on the turf, with a scuffle between the teams ensuing. Despite these sides being 'twinned' in the strange Italian supporters' tradition, there was no love lost on the field.
By the time the first half was out it was 2-0, with the second goal coming from a rather unlikely source. With the ball breaking kindly for Hamšík wide left, he squared the ball for none other than capitano Paolo Cannavaro, who struck his opening goal of the season from point-blank range.
Catania finished the half with a whimper, though roared back by heading into the net shortly after the restart. Bergessio leapt to head a corner powerfully beyond De Sanctis, only for it to be ruled out harshly for a tangle with Zúñiga in the run-up. If anything, the Colombian looked more of the perpetrator, with the duo embroiled in a match of mixed martial arts in the box.
Despite the visitors playing with more zip in the second half, they never managed to cause Morgan De Sanctis great problems. In fact, it was Napoli who came up with the first good chance of the second half, when Cavani leapt to met Mesto's cross from the right, only for his effort to fly over, just past the hour.
A Francesco Lodi free-kick forced Morgan De Sanctis into a rare moment of action minutes later, though it seemed to be heading wide regardless. Pablo Barrientos' late curling effort went wide of the post, with Catania leaving the Stadio San Paolo frustrated,. A game which had the potential to be a banana skin for the Neapolitans was one from which they emerged comfortable winners, heaping the pressure on Juventus ahead of their game in hand.
Catania (4-3-3): Mariano Andújar; Ciro Capuano, Alexis Rolín, Nicolás Spolli, Giuseppe Bellusci; Marco Biagianti (Sergio Almirón 72), Francesco Lodi (Souleymane Doukara 87), Mariano Izco; Alejandro Gómez, Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos
Napoli (3-4-1-2): Morgan De Sanctis; Alessandro Gamberini, Paolo Cannavaro, Gianluca Grava; Camilo Zúñiga (Pablo Armero 83), Blerim Džemaili, Valon Behrami (Gökhan Inler 63), Giandomenico Mesto; Marek Hamšík (Lorenzo Insigne 77); Edinson Cavani, Goran Pandev
Goals: Hamšík 31 (N) Cannavaro 44 (N)