Luis Suarez scored four goals for the second game in a row as Barcelona pressed their Primera Division title claims with a 6-0 victory over Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona had the pressure of playing last of the three title contenders and had to respond following wins earlier in the day for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
The trio came into the weekend separated by just one point, with Barcelona and Atletico level at the summit and Real just behind - and it remained that way following Saturday's action. Barcelona's superior goal difference puts them top.
With Real recovering from 2-0 down to beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 earlier in the day and Atletico edging out Malaga 1-0, all eyes were on Luis Enrique's team and they did not disappoint.
Lionel Messi's looping header put Barcelona ahead after 12 minutes. Suarez then hit a hat-trick, with two goals coming from the penalty spot, before Neymar netted another spot-kick following a red card for Gijon defender Ognjen Vranjes.
Suarez completed the scoring two minutes from time to ensure Barcelona returned to the top of the table, and in the process he unseated Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo as Primera Division top scorer.
The Uruguay international now has 34 goals for the season, two more than Ronaldo, who was unavailable for Madrid this weekend because of a thigh strain.
It looked like Real would miss their talisman as they found themselves in trouble, 2-0 down early on to goals from Adrian Embarba and Miku.
Rayo suffered a 10-2 thrashing at the Bernabeu in December, so it was no surprise to see Zinedine Zidane's side turn the game on its head.
Gareth Bale inspired the comeback, heading Madrid back into the game before the break and then grabbing the winner in the 81st minute after substitute Lucas Vazquez had equalised.
The euphoria of the reversal was punctured, however, by Karim Benzema being substituted after suffering a knock before half-time, three days ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester City.
Atletico had to work hard for a 1-0 home win over a stubborn Malaga side.
Angel Correa climbed off the bench to score the winning goal just after the hour mark as head coach Diego Simeone watched on from the stands, having been sent there by the referee following a bizarre first-half incident.
As half-time approached, an extra ball was thrown on to the pitch, seemingly from the Atletico bench, impeding the momentum of the advancing Ricardo Horta, who was darting dangerously down the left wing with the hosts outnumbered.
Simeone was sent to the stands after a discussion with referee Antonio Mateu and he and the club may face further sanctions following the incident.
Fede Cartabia's late equaliser earned Deportivo La Coruna a 1-1 draw at fellow Primera Division strugglers Eibar.
The hosts looked on course for a win which would have secured their status in Spain's top flight next season when Adrian gave them an eighth-minute lead.
Cartabia's intervention 19 minutes from time, though, ensured a share of the spoils which could well prove valuable for both sides.
Deportivo are now seven points clear of the bottom three while Eibar, a further three points ahead, will have their safety confirmed if Getafe fail to beat Valencia on Sunday.
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