Ireland looked every bit the side boasting three consecutive wins in their 2017 UEFA qualification campaign but failed to earn the point they deserved due to one lapse on 67 minutes.
Substitute Vittorio Parigini was only on the pitch six minutes before controlling Federico Bernardeschi’s defence-splitting pass, holding off a challenge from Sean Long and lifting the ball beyond the advancing Danny Rogers.
By then, Ireland had missed a couple of golden chances in front of the 6,000 crowd and wasted another glut of them when playing against 10 men for the last 20 minutes.
That situation developed after Fiorentina playmaker Bernardeschi was sent-off, picking up a second booking for kicking the ball away in a bid to wind down the clock at that early stage.
“Against a top European nation, it was a fantastic performance by the players which warranted at least a draw,” explained King afterwards.
“The way Italy celebrated at full-time showed how relieved they were to get a result. Our goalkeeper Danny Rogers didn’t have a save to make throughout.
“We’ll take the positives out of this game, try pick up a fourth win from five next month in Lithuania, and move into next year hopeful of pushing for qualification.”
Jack Byrne’s 16th-minute shot, saved by Alessio Cragno, was the best opportunity of the first half, whilst Josh Cullen and Sean Kavanagh were both within a yard of hitting the target with efforts as Ireland chased an equaliser.
Another fell to Dylan Connolly in the last minute only for the substitute to blaze over with his first touch after coming on.
A Cragno (Cagliari); A Conti (Atalanta), A Romagnoli (AC Milan), D Rugani (Juventus), N Murru (Cagliari); R Mandragora (Pescara), D Cataldi (Lazio); F Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), G Monachello (Atalanta), K Boateng (Bari); A Cerri (Cagliari).
V Parigini (Perugia) for Cerri (61 mins), Davide Calabria (AC Milan) for Boateng (75 mins), L Garritano (Cesena) for Monachello (88 mins).
D Rogers (Falkirk); S Long (Reading), G Rea (Southend Utd), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), J Connors (Dagenham); A Browne (Preston NE), J Byrne (SC Cambuur), J Cullen (West Ham Utd); C O’Dowda (Oxford Utd), C Wilkinson (Barnsley), S Kavanagh (Fulham).
S Maguire (Dundalk) for Kavanagh, D Connolly (Ipswich Town) for Byrne (both 86 mins).
A Agheyev (AZE).