Madrid: Gareth Bale scored four times as Real Madrid came from behind to beat nine-man Rayo Vallecano 10-2 in a wild game at the Santiago Bernabeu to close the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to two points.
Atletico missed the chance to move clear at the top on their own as they had captain Gabi sent-off in a 1-0 defeat at Malaga. Barca have a game in hand as they weren't in La Liga action this weekend after sealing the Club World Cup with a 3-0 win over River Plate in Japan earlier in the day.
It is the first time in 55 years that a team has scored 10 goals in a La Liga game, however, the Madrid fans still voiced their disapproval towards under fire coach Rafael Benitez after Real found themselves 2-1 down inside 12 minutes.
Red cards inside half an hour for Tito and Raul Baena opened the floodgates, though, as a double from Cristiano Ronaldo and a hat-trick for Karim Benzema added to Bale's most prolific day in three years as a Madrid player.
"We conceded the goals early, but then the team reacted," said Benitez. I am not going to judge the decisions of the referee, but from the sending-off the team did what it had to do, try to play well and score goals."
Madrid president Florentino Perez had restated his support for Benitez in midweek after rumours suggested he was one defeat away from the sack after losing 1-0 at Villarreal last weekend.
Real had won their previous 14 meetings against their humble rivals from across Madrid and looked well set for another routine afternoon when Bale teed up Danilo for the opener after just three minutes.
Yet, Madrid's defensive deficiencies in recent weeks were exposed again when Antonio Amaya rose highest to head home Roberto Trashorras's corner. And the defending was even worse from Danilo as he allowed Jozabed to head home from close range two minutes later.
With the Madrid fans on the verge of full revolt, the hosts were handed a huge break when Tito needlessly lunged in on Toni Kroos and was rightly shown a straight red card.
Danilo then made amends for his poor defending with a sensational cross for Bale to head home the fourth goal of the game after just 25 minutes.
More controversy was to follow when Baena was penalised for a pull on Sergio Ramos and was harshly shown his second yellow card to leave Rayo with nine men. Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot and Bale then exploited a huge gape in the Rayo defence to gallop clear and slot home his second.
The one way traffic continued after the break as James Rodriguez teed up Benzema and then Ronaldo to register his 23rd goal of the season with a thumping header.