Madrid: Barcelona produced another magical display of attacking football to sweep aside Real Sociedad 5-0 and return to the La Liga summit.
Following Real Madrid`s 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza, the onus was on Barcelona to maintain their two-point advantage and they took the game to their opponents from the start.
With just eight minutes gone David Villa gave them the lead by converting a Pedro Rodriguez cross and from there it only got worse for Sociedad.
Barca added to their total when a fine passing movement culminated with an Andres Iniesta goal from a tight angle.
Lionel Messi, at his tantalising best, then hit a brace and there was still time for substitute Bojan Krkic to hit a fifth, a minute from the end.
"We are not aware of what these players are going to do. This normally may happen once or twice but it is happening all the time at the moment and we are privileged to be able to work with them," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
Real gave a more workmanlike performance to overturn bottom club Zaragoza.
With several players missing through injury and suspension, Real survived a wasted chance for the home side`s Angel Lafita, before taking the lead when Mesut Ozil cut in from the right and beat the keeper.
Either side of the break Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria scored to give Real a commanding advantage but Zaragoza never gave in.
Gabi Fernandez pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Nicolas Bertolo had been felled by Ricardo Carvalho.
After the game Real coach Jose Mourinho was critical of the referee who showed yellow cards to Marcelo and Xabi Alonso, ruling them out of the next game against Sevilla.
"I am not angry with Marcelo but I am about the situation. It is easy to give yellow cards to Real Madrid players and they are given out less to other teams. It seems that players from other teams can protest and at Real Madrid they can`t," said Mourinho.
Espanyol were unable to capitalise on third-place Villarreal`s 1-0 defeat by Getafe as a spectacular free-kick from substitute David Lopez gave Athletic Bilbao a 2-1 victory.
Athletic have only lost twice at home this season - to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid - but were in trouble after Pablo Osvaldo gave high-flying Espanyol a deserved lead.
In the second half Espanyol defended deeply, looking to hold on to their advantage and they paid the price with first Fernando Llorente heading home and then substitute Lopez firing an excellent 30-yard free-kick which nestled in the top corner.
Mallorca were hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 3-0 defeat by Getafe last week but they were beaten 1-0 by Racing Santander with Oscar Serrano scoring in the final minute.
Hercules took Malaga apart in the second half to win 4-1 after conceding an early goal from Sebas Fernandez.
David Trezeguet started the comeback before further goals from Royston Drenthe, Abraham Paz and Kiko Femenia.
Sporting Gijon and Levante came out with honours even in their relegation battle which ended 1-1 with Felipe Caicedo`s opener for Levante cancelled out by an Sebastian Eguren goal.
On Saturday, a brace by Sergio Aguero led Atletico Madrid to a 2-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
It was Aguero`s night as he first won a penalty after being upended by keeper Daniel Aranzubia but Diego Forlan missed the follow-up spot-kick.
Not long later Aguero did find the back of the net with a jinking run and shot, and then added to it ten minutes before half time.
Lowly Almeria produced an inspired performance to beat Sevilla 3-1 and pile the pressure on the troubled Andalusian side.