Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to make it an incredible 36 league goals in the current campaign as Real Madrid defeated local rivals Getafe 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday to prevent Barcelona from winning the league title for at least one more day.
If Real had failed to win, Barcelona would have been crowned champions without playing, but Pep Guardiola's side need a point from their final three matches, with Wednesday's match at Levante the first opportunity, to collect a third successive league crown.
The league may seem lost, but Ronaldo has his own agenda to become the league's top-scorer and followed up his quadruple against Sevilla last time out with a hat-trick. The Portuguese star is now in the box seat to win the Pichichi crown for the league's top-scorer with his 36-goal haul taking him five goals ahead of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo is now within sight of the all-time Pichichi record, which is held by Real Madrid's Mexican forward Hugo Sanchez and Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra, who scored 38 goals in 1990 and 1951 respectively.
Getafe were Ronaldo's latest victims and their 18th defeat of the season leaves them hovering one point above the bottom three with two games left.
Real took the lead on 23 minutes with Mesut Ozil bending in a superb cross with the outside of his left foot. Ronaldo leapt highest to power in a header. German international Ozil set another up for Ronaldo on 57 minutes, cutting the ball back for the former Manchester United man to stroke home into an empty net.
Karim Benzema, largely ignored for the big games against Barcelona, came on and less than 60 seconds after his arrival the French forward scored his 13th league goal on 77 minutes. Ronaldo then converted a 90th minute penalty for his hat-trick with a cheeky chip down the middle to deceive the goalkeeper.
It sealed a 15th home win of the season for Real and moved them five points behind Barcelona, but the champions need just a draw to retain the title due to their superior head to head record over Madrid. "It looks like the league is all wrapped up but it isn't," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "The sooner we can win it the better."
Earlier in the day Deportivo La Coruna took a giant step towards safety with a 2-1 comeback home win over European hopefuls Athletic Bilbao at the Riazor stadium. A 71st minute own goal from left back Xavi Castillo sealed a crucial three points for Depor who move out of the bottom three and are three points above the relegation zone with two games left to play, one of which is against Barcelona.
"We are happy but we still need some more points," said Depor coach Miguel Angel Lotina. "We have a complicated match against Barcelona on Sunday. Even if they are champions it is a difficult game."
Bilbao's 16th defeat of the season is a real setback to their European hopes and, although the Basque club stay fifth, they are just two points ahead of Sevilla who have a game in hand. Depor, league champions in 2000, held on for a vital win as they bid for a 21st consecutive season in the top-flight.
Atletico Madrid failed to capitalise on Bilbao's slip as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Racing Santander on Tuesday. The visitors took a 10th minute lead through Mario Suarez but Turkish midfielder Kennedy Bakircioglu equalised on 37 minutes and Markus Rosenberg struck the winner two minutes after the break.
In other matches, Malaga made it five consecutive league wins for the first time in their history with a 2-0 home victory over relegation rivals Sporting Gijon on Tuesday. Brazilian Julio Baptista scored for the fifth successive game with a ninth minute opener as Malaga moved six points clear of the relegation zone and to the brink of safety.