Gareth Bale ended a run of 802 minutes without a goal in La Liga as Real Madrid won 1-0 at bottom side Huesca yesterday to climb back to within five points of leaders Barcelona.
The Welshman struck his first goal in the league since the start of September to lift Real to a fourth win in five matches and move the European champions up to fourth place.
Bale put a halt to his longest spell without scoring in the league since joining Real as he expertly cushioned in a volley from an arcing cross by Alvaro Odriozola on eight minutes.
Huesca winger Ezequiel Avila forced a brilliant stop from Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium international punching the ball to safety midway through the first half.
Bale nearly added to his haul on 25 minutes when his fierce drive from the edge of the area was tipped over by a scrambling Aleksandar Jovanovic.
Gonzalo Melero should have levelled for Huesca right after the break, only to nod wide of the goal despite having the whole target at which to aim.
A swerving David Ferreiro shot drew another smart save from Courtois as Real withstood a spirited fightback from the hosts, but Bale continued to threaten and forced two further saves from Jovanovic.
Courtois turned over a late Moi Gomez free-kick and Huesca, who slumped to a 10th defeat in 15 games this season, were denied a point when Dani Carvajal headed off the line from Christian Rivera.
Earlier, Lionel Messi stole the show with two free-kick goals in a blistering display as Barcelona maintained their lead at the top of La Liga with a thumping 4-0 derby win over Catalan rivals Espanyol.
The Argentine superstar curled home two sensational set-pieces and set up another goal as his team romped to victory at the RCDE Stadium.
Messi made sure that Ernesto Valverde's team kept their place at the top of the pile with a mesmerising display alongside front-three partners Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele that left Espanyol dead and buried by half-time.
Messi began the rout in the 17th minute with a perfectly placed free-kick that arched past a desperate Diego Lopez, and followed that up by providing the pass for Dembele from which the French attacker curled in a fine second.
It was then Dembele's turn to become provider a minute before the break, slipping in a super through ball that Suarez somehow took on and squeezed home from near the byline.
Messi capped a dominant team and individual display with his second free-kick of the night, which this time whipped past Lopez which such venom the Spanish goalkeeper could barely move towards it.