MADRID, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Real Madrid captain Raul's classy double guided the Primera Liga leaders to a 3-1 win over Racing Santander at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
The striker gave Real an early lead with a neat finish after a well worked counter-attack and took his tally for the season to eight with a rare goal from a free kick midway through the second half.
Real's seventh win in seven home matches left them top on 32 points, four clear of Villarreal who visit Valladolid on Sunday.
Barcelona were held by city rivals Espanyol at the Olympic Stadium.
Lionel Messi created the first goal of the evening for Andres Iniesta, who finished the Argentinian's astute cutback.
But Barca, who left Ronaldinho on the bench, were pegged back in the 69th minute when Ferran Coro finished off Albert Riera's cross.
Ronaldinho went close with a late free-kick, and was then thwarted by a superb save from Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni after he had spilled a shot.
Messi had a great chance to win the game for Barca with three minutes to go after he cut in on his favoured left boot, but his shot lacked power.
Both teams went all out for the win, exchanging shots right up until the final whistle.
An injury-weakened Sevilla slumped to their third defeat in a row when they lost 1-0 at Almeria, defender Santiago Acasiete scoring the winner with a header after an 87th-minute free kick.
Sevilla dominated most of the game but had to play almost all of the second half with 10 men after influential defender Daniel Alves was sent off for picking up a second booking.
Racing came to the Bernabeu with the best defensive record in the league having conceded only nine goals all season, but Real took less than four minutes to score.
Ruud van Nistelrooy slipped a superb diagonal pass between the Racing centre backs towards Raul who steered a low shot past Tono with his favoured left foot.
Racing's defence was breached again five minutes later when defender Sergio Sanchez turned the ball into his own net trying to clear off the line after midfielder Wesley Sneijder rounded the keeper and slid an acute-angled shot in from the byline.
Raul almost added a third when he dinked the ball over Tono only to see his effort headed off the line but he got his second 20 minutes from time when he curled a free kick over the wall.
Despite the scoreline Racing played some neat football in midfield and were rewarded for their perseverance when former Real Madrid striker Pedro Munitis fired home from close range after Mohammed Tchite curled the ball behind the back four.