Mesut Ozil saved Madrid with a brilliant late free-kick to earn a UEFA Champions League point in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
Borussia were ahead until the 89th minutes thanks to a Marco Reus strike and an Alvaro Arbeloa own-goal in the first period. Pepe had earlier levelled for the home side.
The result means, with two games remaining, the Germans still lead Group D with 8 points, one more than Madrid, with Ajax three points behind after a 2-2 draw away at Manchester City. It could have been worse for Madrid as it seemed for long periods the Germans would repeat the 2-1 result from the first game between the sides a fortnight ago in Dortmund.
"In the first-half we were not good and our crowd told us so, but we were better in the second," said Real coach Jose Mourinho. "I am not unhappy with the draw, but yes with not winning when we scored 3 goals, because (Jose) Callejon should have had a goal allowed."
Borussia's coach Jurgen Klopp was happy with the result. "We are still top so a draw was a good result for us." he said. "If we had won I think we would have deserved it, I'm proud of our performance but a little sad as we were so close to direct qualification."
For Madrid, Luka Modric was chosen to partner Xabi Alonso in the centre of midfield with Raphael Varane again called upon into the centre of defence to allow Sergio Ramos to cover at right-back.
Borussia captain Sebastian Kehl was able to play with a protective mask, despite picking up a facial injury on Saturday against Stuttgart.
The German keeper Roman Weidenfaller had to be quick of his line on two minutes to deny Higuain after Angel Di Maria had played a long through ball. However, backed by around 10,000 noisy travelling fans, the Germans settled quickly into the game.
Dortmund pile the pressure
First Lewandowski burst down the left on four minutes and fired over a dangerous cross that had to be expertly dealt with by Madrid's defence Then, on ten minutes, Iker Casillas was quick to stop a Marcel Schmelzer effort with his feet and Lewandowski fired over the rebound. Next it was Kevin Grosskreutz's turn to test Casillas after a quick counter-attack and mazy run down the left from Gotze.
Cristiano Ronaldo should have done better when heading wide an Higuain cross from a good position on 22 minutes, but it was a sign of life from the home team and it lifted their support.
Both sides were now jostling for control of midfield and the opening goal, that eventually fell to the Germans on 28 minutes. Right-back Lukasz Piszczek was deep in his own half when he played a searching ball that Lewandowski headed into the path of Reus, who powerfully volleyed home with his first touch.
The Germans seemed momentarily on top and comfortable until Pepe powered home a Mesut Ozil cross with his head on 34 minutes.
Borussia regained the lead right at the death of an exciting half. Lewandowski was again prominent, heading a long ball from Weidenfeller into the path of Grosskreutz, who burst into the area and laid on a pass for Gotze, who bundled the ball past Casillas. A desperate lunge from Madrid defender Arbeloa provided the decisive touch, but it was a well-worked goal from the Germans.
Jose Mourinho looked for a reaction from his side, making two changes at the interval by bringing on Jose Callejon and Michael Essien to replace Modric and Gonzalo Higuain.
Immediately, Callejon had the ball in the net, but was ruled to be marginally offside before the same player shot just wide on the turn. Callejon again was denied with a block by Weidenfeller on 60 minutes, but as the half went on, the Germans became increasingly comfortable as Madrid's goal opportunities became rare.
Mourinho's last throw of the dice was to introduce Kaka with 13 minutes remaining, and he quickly instigated a move that Ronaldo should have finished. Callejon had a weak shot cleared off the line by Grosskreutz before Ozil's late escape act, a curling a free-kick over the wall and just inside a post, saved Madrid at the last.