An injury time winner from Ciro Immobile handed Italy a 3-2 win away to Macedonia, although it was a tougher clash than the four-time world champions had expected.
Despite taking the lead through Andrea Belotti, Italy found themselves entering the final half an hour a goal down thanks to two quick strikes from Ilija Nestorovski and Ferhan Hasani.
But Italian match-winner Immobile stepped up twice to save their blushes, firing home from close range in the 75th minute and then rounding off the victory with an injury time tap-in.
Spain are ahead of the Italians at the top of Group G on goal difference after they won 2-0 in Albania, courtesy of goals from Diego Costa and Nolito.
Elsewhere, Serbia and Austria played out a thriller in Belgrade, which the hosts eventually edged 3-2.
Southampton's Dusan Tadic came up with the winner for the Serbs, who now top Group D, while Newcastle's Aleksandar Mitrovic added a brace.
Iceland overcame Turkey 2-0 in Reykjavik and a Mario Mandzukic goal helped Croatia defeat Finland 1-0 in Tampere.
Ukraine were comfortable 3-0 winners at home to minnows Kosovo, while a stunning Maximillian Goppel volley wasn't enough for Liechtenstein to record a shock result in Israel, with the hosts winning 2-1.
• Steve Bruce has confirmed he is in talks with Aston Villa over their vacant manager's position.
The former Birmingham and Hull boss said on Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday he was waiting to hear back about potentially taking over at Villa Park.