Real Madrid got the better of Real Sociedad, winning a pulsating game 4-3, despite playing for 84 minutes with 10 men.
Karim Benzema had swept the champions into the lead after just 90 seconds but Jose Mourinho's decision to once again leave Iker Casillas on the bench backfired just six minutes in as Antonio Adan brought down Carlos Vela inside the area and was rightly sent-off.
Xabi Prieto slotted home the penalty on what was to be a memorable afternoon for him and both sides exchanged further goals before half-time as Sami Khedira put Madrid back in front only for Prieto to level again five minutes later.
Cristiano Ronaldo then looked to have sealed the points with two goals in two minutes midway through the second-half, but Sociedad were given another lifeline when Prieto completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining.
However, the visitors themselves were reduced to 10 men on 80 minutes as Dani Estrada was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Ronaldo and the Basques failed to muster another serious effort on goal.
Tito Vilanova returned to the Barcelona bench with the minimum of fuss as his side got all of their work done inside the first 30 minutes of the Catalan derby in a 4-0 win over Espanyol.
Manager Vilanova, back at the helm after a brief spell out for surgery on his parotid gland after contracting cancer for the second time, was given the easiest of nights as his stellar cast of players made life comfortable for him.
After Xavi had opened the scoring, Pedro then chimed in with a brace before Lionel Messi scored his first of the year with a penalty.
Pedro was twice denied a hat-trick by the offside flag while other chances also passed as Barca cruised.
Barcelona are now 11 points clear at the top after Atletico Madrid lost ground as Kevin Garcia popped up with an equaliser three minutes from time to snatch a 1-1 draw for Real Mallorca at Iberostar Stadium.
The visitors were without striker Radamel Falcao due to suspension and their lack of threat showed in a poor first period.
The match came to the boil inside the final quarter, beginning with Raul Garcia breaking the deadlock from close range in the 72nd minute. Kevin Garcia pounced to level with the clock ticking down, while moments later players and staff from both teams were involved in an ugly melee as tempers began to fray.
The hosts nearly claimed all the points as Giovani Dos Santos' wicked free-kick in injury time came back off the post, leaving Atletico relieved to come away with a point.
Two goals from Iago Aspas and another wonderful strike from Alex Lopez were enough to hand Celta Vigo only their second win in 11 league games as they moved three points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win over Valladolid.
Aspas enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a fine run and finish from Michael Krohn-Dehli's through ball after just eight minutes, but Valladolid were back level moments later when Alberto Bueno converted from the spot after Javi Varas had brought down Javi Guerra.
However, Aspas restored the lead with a penalty of his own on the half hour mark and Lopez sealed the points seven minutes into the second-half with a brilliant strike from 25 yards that rocketed into the top corner.