Barcelona reclaimed an eight-point lead at the summit of La Liga on Sunday after they struck back from a goal down to defeat Sevilla 2-1 at the Camp Nou thanks to Lionel Messi's mesmerising free-kick.
Sevilla forward Vitolo volleyed the guests into a shock lead after 20 minutes, but Messi's set-piece magic pulled manager Luis Enrique's side level before Gerard Pique glanced in a second, deciding goal for the hosts.
Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic began on the bench as Sergi Roberto, Jeremy Mathieu and Arda Turan started in a much-altered lineup, but Barca still had the depth in resources to emerge victorious.
Sevilla were almost unfortunate to come away from the tie without a point, but ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan testified to Barcelona now running away with this season's title by the looks of things:
Barcelona came into Sunday's meeting on the back of a 33-match unbeaten run, but it was Sevilla who last defeated the Catalan giants when these two met in the reverse fixture back in October.
It was almost a magic start for Messi too,after the Argentinian cracked Sevilla's post straight from a 12th-minute corner before Luis Suarez's follow-up rattled the crossbar, as illustrated by Spanish daily AS:
Suarez came to regret missing that miss from the edge of the box too after Sevilla broke down their left flank, and Benoit Tremoulinas' looping cross found Vitolo in space before he blasted home from 10 yards out.
WhoScored.com pointed out manager Unai Emery's side had failed to pose much of an intimidating attack away from home this season, but that only made Vitolo's breakthrough all the sweeter:
The changes in midfield and defence appeared to take their toll on Barca, and there was a clear lack of marking in the buildup to Sevilla's opener. However, the hosts nevertheless hit back in typical fashion and claimed a bulk of the possession as they began edging their way into enemy territory.
Barcelona's knocking at the door finally yielded results when a superb turn on the edge of the box from Suarez forced Adil Rami to foul the Uruguayan on the edge of Sevilla's box, and Messi stepped up to convert.
Despite the fact Sevilla No. 1 Sergio Rico was guarding his left-hand post, Messi thumped the ball into the top corner from 20 yards out. Corrigan pointed out the set piece looked set up for a different routine:
Barca's press continued heading into the half-time break, and Enrique's men could afford to be upbeat about their revival efforts after ending the opening period in the ascendancy.
Pique compounded that pressure just three minutes after the restart, and a smart interchange between Suarez and Messi saw the centre-back divert a smartly taken shot past Rico for the hosts' second of the evening.
Kevin Gameiro almost immediately pulled Sevilla level after a deft touch saw him slip past enemy lines, but a quick-fire stop from Barca goalkeeper Claudio Bravo denied the Frenchman from short range.
Rico made up for his mistake in letting Messi's free-kick sail past by denying Neymar from short distance, and the Brazilian looked to have a penalty claim after it appeared Rami fouled him. But it was to no avail. Catalan daily Sport detailed the Camp Nou's disapproval:
Suarez and Neymar looked the most likely to get on the scoresheet next, but the home team were frustrated in their pursuit of a vital third goal in order to put the tie beyond their guests. Barca eventually ended the fixture under a raft of Sevilla pressure, and Enrique will certainly have had his lessons to take from the clash, three points or not.
With UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey campaigns taking their toll on the squad, Barca looked visibly tired in the latter stages, and Sevilla's Steven N'Zonzi flouted a pair of chances in the final 15 minutes:
For the third match in a row, Barcelona finished failing to score more than twice, but a fifth win in succession nevertheless saw their fine streak continue and order restored atop the Primera Division perch.
Barca travel to Rayo Vallecano on Thursday evening, while Sevilla play host on Tuesday to Eibar—the same opponent Enrique's side will face next Sunday as they face a packed schedule of three matches in seven days.
It's not too often Barcelona concede first at the Camp Nou, and while Sunday's win was far from pretty, the Catalan hosts could afford to feel buoyed by the resilience they showed in a tough fixture against stern opposition.
Few appreciated the comeback more than goalscorer Pique, who grabbed his first goal of the league season to pop up as an unlikely hero, voicing his pleasure after the match, per the club's official Twitter account:
Many in the Barca dressing room will know it's wins such as these that often end up deciding titles, and a deserved three points sees the Blaugrana yet again move clear at La Liga's peak.