Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi fired Barcelona past Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in a fiery Clasico, sending the Catalans 14 points clear of their arch rivals at the top of the table.
Madrid had the better of the first half, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring, but from an offside position, while Barcelona should have had a penalty for Dani Carvajal’s foul on Gerard Pique.
A lightning Barcelona break in the 54th minute saw them break the deadlock, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and finally Sergi Roberto combining to set up Suarez.
Then Madrid were reduced to 10 men when Carvajal was sent off for a handball to prevent a certain goal, with Messi slamming home the penalty.
The Argentinian dribbled down the right in stoppage time and pulled back for Aleix Vidal to slide home a third to all but end Real’s title hopes and keep unbeaten Barcelona flying at the top of the table.
Here are the five key talking points…
1. Roles reversed
Barcelona starting the game 11 points clear of Real Madrid put both teams in an unusual state of mind for the game.
Madrid needed to come out guns blazing, desperate for an early goal, while Barcelona had to take on the style their opponents often employ, the counter-attack.
While in Clasicos past we’ve seen Barcelona dominate the ball and Madrid strike to try and hit them on the break, here the roles were reversed.
Madrid were on top, closing down Barcelona at every opportunity, pressing high, whereas the Catalans were content to be penned in, waiting for the right moment to surge forward.
That came in the second half and Barcelona had a lot of energy in the tank which they used to take Madrid to shreds and secure a huge victory.
2. Paulinho’s powerful impact
We have sing the praises of the Brazilian this season already but until he proved himself in a Clasico, there was always going to be a question mark above his head.
Paulinho shone at the Santiago Bernabeu, proving the biggest thorn in Real Madrid’s side throughout.
In the first half he was Barcelona’s only attacking threat, linking superbly with Messi twice and stinging the palms of Keylor Navas.
After the break his energy was vital as Barcelona overran Madrid, and he found the net although the goal was ruled out for Dani Carvajal to be shown a red card and Barcelona given a penalty.
3. Carvajal crimes
Dani Carvajal had a day to forget. The Real Madrid right-back was lucky not to concede a penalty in the first half when he brought down Gerard Pique in the area.
Then in the second period he was nowhere to be seen as Barcelona opened the scoring, Suarez eluding the defender to finish under Navas as Barcelona broke away.
Finally, he committed a disgraceful handball to keep the ball out of his net at the end of a comical goalmouth scramble, and was shown the red card.
Lionel Messi blasted home the advantage to double Barcelona’s lead, and Madrid took off Karim Benzema to plug the gap left by Carvajal with Nacho, ending their hopes of getting anything from the game.
There are no better goalkeepers in world football, right now, than Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The German glovesman has been in sensational form all season, and his wonderful saves have kept the Catalans free from defeat in La Liga and the Champions League.
He was at it again in the Clasico, keeping Madrid at bay, even after Barcelona’s defence switched off in the final stages and Madrid started creating chances despite having 10 men.
With Manuel Neuer still recovering from injury, it’s impossible to claim there is a goalkeeper in better form than Ter Stegen.
Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak are top stoppers too, but Ter Stegen is a cut above.
5. La Liga is over
That’s how it looks, anyway, although nobody from Barcelona will admit it for fear of jinxing themselves.
Barcelona, unbeaten all season, are now 14 points ahead of Real Madrid, who are fourth.
Atletico Madrid are in second place and nine behind the leaders, having suffered a humiliating 1-0 beating by Espanyol at Cornella on Friday night.
They will also have to deal with a gruelling Europa League campaign which could upset their league form further still.
Valencia, meanwhile, could move within eight points of Barcelona if they win later Saturday, but nobody truly believes they will go on to compete for the title.