Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos struck twice within eight first-half minutes to get the European champions back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Madrid's 40-game unbeaten run had come to a crashing halt with back-to-back defeats to Sevilla and Celta Vigo in the past week, but after a nervy start Ramos ensured they opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table.
Ramos opened the scoring with a towering header from a Toni Kroos corner on 35 minutes.
And the Spanish international soon took his career tally to 50 La Liga goals by bundling home another Kroos delivery despite standing in an offside position.
Juanpi got Malaga back into the game just after the hour mark and could even have snatched a point but for a fine save from Keylor Navas to deny Chory Castro soon after.
Second-placed Sevilla and Barcelona, a further point adrift in third, can close the gap when they travel to Osasuna and Eibar respectively on Sunday.
Whilst Ramos was riding to Real's rescue, Cristiano Ronaldo endured another forgetful afternoon in front of goal and was even whistled by the Madrid fans early on after a sluggish start to 2017.
Ronaldo shot straight at Carlos Kameni with just the Cameroonian to beat and Karim Benzema headed just over as Madrid started brightly.
However, the hosts suffered an early injury blow when left-back Marcelo limped off with a thigh injury and could have been behind midway through the first half when Castro's driven effort came back off the post.