Gonzalo Higuain scored after three minutes and Gianluigi Buffon saved a penalty as Juventus stayed on track for a fourth straight Italian Cup with a 1-0 semi-final, first leg win at Atalanta.

Buffon — making his first appearance in goal since turning 40 and after a two-month layoff with a calf injury — showed he was back at his best as he made his first Cup appearance since 2012 on Tuesday night.

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The three-time holders got on the scoresheet in Bergamo after just two-and-a-half minutes when Argentine Higuain found a way through the Atalanta defence and curled into the corner.

It was the quickest goal this season for Massimiliano Allegri’s side who are sitting second in Serie A behind Napoli.

Atalanta thought they would level when the video assistant referee (VAR) awarded a penalty after Medhi Benatia handled in the box, but Alejandro Gomez’s spot-kick was saved by the evergreen Buffon.

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Buffon got down low to hold the Argentine’s driven effort to the left.

Higuain missed a chance for a second after half an hour with two Blaise Matuidi efforts deflected over the bar.

Buffon again saved two quick-fire attempts from top Atalanta scorer Gomez after break, tipping over the second.

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Despite beating league leaders Napoli at the San Paolo Stadium to advance to the semi-finals, Atalanta could not find a way past Juventus who controlled the game.

Higuain came close late on and Buffon again saved his team three minutes from time when he blocked Andrea Petagna’s point-blank shot.

Allegri’s men now just have to maintain their advantage when they host Atalanta in the return leg on February 28 in Turin.

AC Milan and Lazio face each other on Wednesday in the second semi-final at the San Siro.