Mike Blair and Allister Hogg both scored tries but it was not enough to prevent Italy from defeating Scotland 23-20 in the RBS 6 Nations with a late drop-goal at the Stadio Flaminio.
In dry conditions, Scotland began the match by probing Italy's defence with stand-off Dan Parks hoisting the ball deep into home territory.
But the back division was forced into another change when Simon Danielli was stretchered off after just five minutes with Simon Webster switching to the wing and Andrew Henderson coming into the midfield.
Scotland were then penalised at the scrum with referee Nigel Owens awarding a penalty in favour of the home side, but Andrea Marcato miscued his effort.
The game was played at breakneck speed with Italy's brand of rugby oozing uncompromising physicality, although Scotland's determination forced the hosts into some errors.
Scotland then conceded a penalty try after being penalised for bringing the scrum down by the whitewash. At that point, Scotland struggled to overpower Italy's hard-nosed pack and the battle-hardened home side flourished at the set-piece.
Nevertheless, after some patient and purposeful approach play, Scotland eventually created an opening and Edinburgh's Allister Hogg breezed through to score a try.
It was the back rower's 10th try for Scotland and handed Frank Hadden's side a much-needed boost while enabling the pendulum to swing in favour of the visitors.
Wing Chris Paterson added the extras; making it 31 scored from 31 attempts. With genuine momentum, Scotland then increased their points tally for the afternoon when Dan Parks hit a long range penalty.
Looking both bright and alert, Graeme Morrison then burst through the Italian defence to keep Scotland in the ascendancy during the latter stages of the first half.
But Scott MacLeod was penalised handing Marcato a penalty from distance and the Italian dispatched his attempt between the posts to level the score.
Nevertheless Scotland responded to the set-back by cranking up the pressure and expert ball-carrying from Blair and MacLeod opened Italy up before the move broke down.
Then in the final act of the first half, Blair led by example; puncturing Italy's defence before gliding underneath the posts.
Paterson struck another immaculately-taken conversion to hand Scotland a seven-point advantage at the interval.
After the break, a breathless battle evolved in a congested midfield, but Italy managed to score a converted try through Gonzalo Canale to draw level.
Then with 10 minutes of the contest remaining, Italy edged in front through a penalty from full-back Marcato before Paterson responded with a kick at goal moments later to set up an adrenaline-charged finale.
But Italy snatched the win courtesy of a late drop-goal from Marcato to cruelly deny Scotland a positive result in Rome.
Scotland: Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh); Simon Danielli (Ulster), Simon Webster (Edinburgh), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Paterson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Mike Blair (Edinburgh, captain); Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Fergus Thomson (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hines (Perpignan), Scott MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh), Simon Taylor (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Scott Lawson (Sale Sharks), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Craig Smith (Edinburgh), Jason White (Sale Sharks), Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors).