Cristiano Ronaldo scored a second-half hat-trick to bring him to 27 league goals for the season as Real Madrid crushed hapless Malaga 7-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to close the gap on league leaders Barcelona to seven points.
Barcelona won 1-0 at Valencia on Wednesday to put the pressure on Real who had drawn 0-0 at Deportivo La Coruna in their last match, but Jose Mourinho's side responded by maintaining their 100 per cent home record with their biggest win of the season.
Ronaldo had gone four games in all competitions without a goal - a drought by his high standards - but the Portuguese star hit the goal trail as Real ran riot. First-half goals from French forward Karim Benzema, Argentine winger Angel di Maria and Brazilian full back Marcelo put Real into a commanding first half lead before Ronaldo took centre stage in the second half to give Manuel Pellegrini a horrid return to the Bernabeu.
Malaga coach Pellegrini guided Real to a record 96 points in the league last term only to be sacked after one season to pave the way for Mourinho's arrival.
Benzema started the match ahead of Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor and repaid the faith by opening the scoring on 27 minutes. Xabi Alonso delivered a free-kick into the box and Malaga defended it poorly allowing Benzema to stay onside and the Frenchman used the outside of his right boot to steer a volley into the roof of the net.
Benzema had a second goal ruled out for offside minutes later after Mesut Ozil had crashed a left-footed free-kick off the post. Real were looking menacing and scored again on 35 minutes as Malaga were blitzed on the counter attack.
The visitors were attacking with a corner but Madrid cleared and launched a speedy attack and some woeful defending allowed Di Maria to run clean though on goal. The Argentine showed good composure to side-foot home and then played a key role in the third goal on the stroke of half-time. He floated a neat pass to Marcelo and the Brazilian thundered a left-footed volley into the corner as Real went in 3-0 at the break.
The second half belonged to Ronaldo as the world's most expensive player bagged a 26-minute hat-trick. He opened his account in the 50th minute and added his second from the penalty spot on 67 minutes with an emphatic spot-kick. The Portuguese star completed his hat-trick nine minutes later after a good pass from substitute Sergio Canales and joins Barcelona's Lionel Messi at the top of the goalscoring charts on 27 goals.
Benzema grabbed his second on 61 minutes and could have had a hat-trick himself, while Ronaldo could have scored six or seven against a poor Malaga who stay second from bottom three points from safety.
Almeria stay bottom
Earlier Almeria stay rooted to the bottom of the Spanish first division after a 1-1 home draw with ten-man Racing Santander on Thursday. Racing played 73 minutes of the match with ten men after Brazilian defender Henrique was sent off early on, but Almeria could not capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Henrique, on loan from Barcelona, hauled down speedy Argentine Pablo Piatti on 17 minutes to earn a red card, but the extra man didn't show as Racing took a 37th minute lead through Gonzalo Colsa and then Adrian Morales missed a penalty close to half-time.
Almeria equalised on 64 minutes through Albert Crusat but the Copa del Rey semi-finalists stay bottom of the table four points from safety. Racing stretched their unbeaten run to six league games with new coach Marcelino guiding the club away from the relegation zone and up to 12th.