Barcelona put a stressful week off the field after the resignation of club president Sandro Rosell behind them to move back to the top of the Spanish La Liga with a 3-0 win over Malaga on Sunday.
Alexis Sanchez slotted home the third moments later from Pedro's cross for his 12th goal of the season.
However, it was to be another frustrating evening for Messi in front of goal as his La Liga goal drought stretched to eight games but victory ensured Barça continued their record run of finishing top of the table for 59 consecutive rounds of league games
Atletico Madrid remain level on 54 points with the Catalans as they were 4-2 victors at Rayo Vallecano earlier on Sunday with both leaders a point ahead of third-placed Real Madrid.
David Villa put the visitors in front after just eight minutes with his 11th goal of the season, but Diego Simeone's men were thankful to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois moments later as he saved Jonathan Viera's penalty.
Arda Turan doubled Atletico's advantage at the end of a fine team move involving Diego Costa and Jose Sosa before Viera's deflected strike had briefly given Rayo hope.
The visitors restored their two-goal cushion before half-time, though, as Turan slotted home Gabi's free-kick from a tight angle at the back post.
Saul Niguez's then put through his own net under pressure from Costa to make it 4-1 before Joaquin Larrivey's headed consolation rounded off the scoring.
With top-scorer Costa still to score in seven games in 2014, Villa's return to goalscoring form has come just at the right time and he slotted away the opener confidently from Costa's unselfish cut-back.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao also enhanced their chances of playing UEFA Champions League football next season with a crushing 5-1 win over Osasuna to move five points clear of Villarreal in fourth. In Sunday's early game, Almeria took down Getafe 1-0, with Sundy Jonathan scoring four minutes after the break.