Barcelona moved clear at the top of La Liga for 24 hours at least with a thumping 5-0 win at Rayo Vallecano. David Villa scored the only goal of the first half before Lionel Messi gave Barça a clear advantage three minutes after the break with his 300th senior goal.
That was how it stayed until the final ten minutes when the floodgates suddenly opened as Xavi and Cesc Fabregas found the target before Messi grabbed his second a minute from the end.
The late goal rush put the focus squarely back on closest challengers Atletico Madrid, who will attempt to draw level with Barça again tomorrow when they host bottom-placed Osasuna.
Real Betis moved up to fourth with a 1-0 home win over Valencia. Salva Sevilla scored his first goal of the season on nine minutes after Juan Carlos' cross was not properly cleared by Adil Rami. Adrian ensured the win, and his third consecutive clean sheet since taking over as the first-choice goalkeeper, when he kept out Roberto Soldado's late effort with his legs.
Celta Vigo claimed a 1-1 draw in their Galician derby with Deportivo La Coruna despite playing with ten men for 40 minutes. Mario Bermejo gave Celta an eighth-minute lead only for Juan Dominguez to equalise 21 minutes later.
Celta then had Gustavo Cabral dismissed for a second caution on 52 minutes but the visitors failed to make the extra man count.
Third-placed Malaga lost ground on the leaders as they were held to a goalless draw against struggling Espanyol at the Cornella El-Prat.