Madrid:Ballon D'Or winner Lionel Messi scored a brace as Barcelona won 3-1 at Deportivo La Coruna to restore their five-point advantage over Real Madrid at the summit.
Four days after collecting the award for European Player of the Year Messi turned on the style scoring a brilliant opener and then heading a crucial 80th minute goal after Depor had equalised on Saturday.
It took Messi's goals tally to nine alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored Barca's third goal in the closing stages.
"It was a really important win," said Messi. "We have won all three matches this week but there are plenty of games still to go and it is difficult to retain this title."
It was Barca's first win at the Riazor Stadium since 2005 and the champions now lead Real, 4-2 winners over Almeria, by five points having played one game more.
It was the third league win inside a week for Barca but there is no respite as they travel to Dinamo Kiev on Wednesday with the holders needing a point to reach the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero and villain for Real Madrid playing a pivotal role in their 4-2 comeback win over Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, only to be sent off late on for violent conduct.
"I am human and make mistakes too," said Ronaldo. "It was an instinctive reaction and I have apologised to my team-mates."
After starting the previous two games on the substitutes' bench due to a slight knock Ibrahimovic returning to the Barcelona starting line-up while Sergi Busquets returned from his suspension.
Ibrahimovic attempted an ambitious overhead kick on 23 minutes before the ball ran through to Thierry Henry who missed a great chance at the back post.
It was left to Messi to show them how to do it with the Argentine collecting a Dani Alves pass before turning neatly and hammering a left-footed shot into the corner.
However, Depor equalised against the run of play with Busquets failing to clear a long ball and Adrian anticipated well to head past Victor Valdes on 38 minutes.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola threw on the tricky Pedro in an attempt to change things and his cross set up Messi for his second headed goal ten minutes from time.
Ibrahimovic scored for the third successive game to cap a hard-earned but vital victory.
Real bounced back from their Barcelona setback with a 4-2 win over Almeria but it was far from easy as Real came from 2-1 down to maintain their perfect home record.
Ronaldo was the heart of everything, winning a dubious 82nd minute penalty, which he subsequently missed, before substitute Karim Benzema rammed in the rebound.
Almeria were furious about the penalty, awarded automatically by the referee despite goalkeeper Diego Alves appearing to get a hand on the ball to push it away from Ronaldo.
"It wasn't a penalty and it had a major impact on the scoreline," bemoaned Almeria coach Hugo Sanchez.
Former Manchester United man Ronaldo then scored his sixth goal of the season two minutes later to make it 4-2, after Gonzalo Higuain had equalised, before pressing the self-destruct button four minutes later by collecting a second yellow card for kicking Juanma Ortiz.
Sergio Ramos headed his first goal of the season to give Real a first half lead but Fernando Soriano and Kalu Uche scored twice in six minutes to give the hosts a fright before they mounted their late comeback.
Earlier Sevilla dropped two vital points in a 1-1 draw at home against 10-man Valladolid and they trail Barcelona by nine points.
Sevilla host Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday looking to secure top spot in their group, having already qualified for the knockout stage.
Real are also in Champions League action and need a point at Marseille on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16.