Jose Maria Callejon grabbed a late winner for Real Madrid as Jose Mourinho's men fought back from a goal down to defeat Real Mallorca 2-1 and go eight points clear of bitter rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
The win piled the pressure on champions Barcelona, who tackle Real Betis at home tomorrow. Israeli international Tomer Hemed put Mallorca in front in the first half and it looked like a surprise result was on the cards before substitute Gonzalo Higuain gave Real hope with a 71st-minute equaliser.
Callejon then struck what could prove to be a crucial winner in the 82nd minute of a game in which Real were second best in the first half. Mallorca were well organised at the start, content to relinquish possession to Real, which allowed the island side to counter attack with pace.
"They defended well with no errors and knew how we would attack them, they played really well, especially in the first half," said Mourinho. "We had to take risks in the second half to win." Callejon added: "The most key thing is the teamwork that keeps us at the top, the three points are much more important than my goal."
The quick Victor Casadesus had the first opportunity when he narrowly failed to steer the ball home after good work from Hemed on the right on nine minutes. Next it was Hemed's turn to worry the Real goal after being put clear by Casadesus.
The breakthrough came for the home side on 38 minutes when Chori Castro created the space to whip in a cross at pace for Hemed to stoop in front of the Real defence and glance a header past goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Higuain starts comeback
Sergio Ramos replied with the leaders' first real chance on the stroke of half-time with a header that crashed against the post, and there was still time for Lassana Diarra to try from distance before the break.
Castro and Hemed linked up again on 53 minutes when the Israeli sent another header just wide from a corner. Mourinho, having already sent on Higuain at half-time, introduced Kaka and Fabio Coentrao just before the hour mark in a bid to fire his team into action.
Casillas then had to turn a Michael Pereira shot past the post. Dudu Aouate remained untroubled in the Mallorca goal until the 72nd minute when Higuain turned in the equaliser with the help of a deflection after a clever through ball from Mesut Ozil.
Two minutes later and Cristiano Ronaldo slammed a shot against the crossbar as Real were suddenly in control. Ramos had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside decision on 76 minutes and it looked like Mallorca had done enough for a point when Aouate came off his line to block at the feet of Higuain on 84 minutes.
However, the ball fell to Callejon, who thumped it past the stranded goalkeeper to give Real a vital win and boost their hopes of winning back the title that Barcelona have held for the last three seasons.