After suffering a severely uncharacteristic early-season slump that found them sitting briefly in seventh on the La Liga table, Real Madrid were back to winning form on Saturday at home against Rayo Vallecano.
It seemed as though Madrid's troubles would haunt them for yet another match early on. However, when Miguel Perez Cuesta opened up the scoring to put Rayo on top after just 14 seconds of play.
For the next 38 minutes, the same finishing difficulties that saw Madrid scoreless in their last two league matches continued to pile up as Rayo held on to their early lead late into the first half. But in the 39th minute, Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo scored the equalizer for the home side, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring six minutes later to give Madrid the lead.
Early in the second half, Ronaldo netted again, this time from the penalty spot for his second of the night. Four minutes later, Miguel Pérez Cuesta scored for Rayo to bring the difference back to one goal, and a red card to Angel Di Maria another two minutes after that made it look as though Madrid was in hot water for the rest of the evening.
But the sending-off only appeared to give Madrid momentum, as they went on to increase the pressure and record another three goals in the time following the decision.
Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema both added their names to the list of goal-scoring Real Madrid players for the night, with Ronaldo completing his hat trick in the 84th minute by converting another penalty to reach the final scoreline of 6-2.
The result allows Madrid to climb two spots in the La Liga standings, up to fifth on the table. Cristiano Ronaldo increased his tally to seven goals on the season, just one behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi, who recorded a hat trick of his own later in the day.
Rayo: Miguel Pérez Cuesta (1')
Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo (39')
Madrid: Gonzalo Higuaín (45')
Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo (Pen, 51')
Rayo: Miguel Pérez Cuesta (55')
Madrid: Raphael Varane (67')
Madrid: Karim Benzema (73')
Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo (Pen, 84')
Real Madrid Lineup:
Iker Casillas, Raúl Albiol, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuaín, Kaka
Subs: Mesut Özil for Lassana Diarra (29'), Sami Khedira for Kaká (59'), Karim Benzema for Gonzalo Higuaín (59')
Rayo Vallecano Lineup:
Dani Gimenez, Jordi Figueras Montel, Javi Arribas, Casado, Tito, Javi Fuego, José María Movilla, Piti, Lass, Raúl Tamudo, Miguel Pérez Cuesta
Subs: Andrija Delibasic for Raúl Tamudo (56'), Dani Pacheco for Piti (68'), Roberto Trashorras for Miguel Pérez Cuesta (69')