Real Madrid inflicted a second painful defeat on stuttering Barcelona in five days when Sergio Ramos nodded a late winner in a 2-1 success in La Liga on Saturday.
Lionel Messi equalled Alfredo Di Stefano's scoring record for 'Clasico' matches of 18 goals with an 18th-minute leveller after Karim Benzema's opener for hosts Real in the sixth minute but it was little comfort for leaders Barca, dumped out of the King's Cup by their arch rivals on Tuesday.
Third-placed Real's victory does little to affect the domestic title race, leaving them 13 points behind leaders Barca with 12 matches left, but is another big boost ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last 16, second leg at Manchester United.
Real's trip to Old Trafford is the club's top priority and coach Jose Mourinho left key players including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and midfielders Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil out of his starting lineup for Barca's visit.
It was a strangely low-key affair for a clash between the Spanish giants and both teams appeared content to settle for a draw until Ramos leapt to head home from a Luka Modric corner in the 82nd minute.
The Barca players were furious when their penalty appeals for an apparent foul on Adriano were waved away in the dying seconds and goalkeeper Victor Valdes was shown a yellow card and then a red seconds later for furiously berating the referee after the whistle.
Photograph: Paul Hanna/Reuters