Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 22nd La Liga goal of the season to set Real Madrid on their way to a laboured 2-0 win at home to Granada on Saturday that lifted them above Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to the top of the standings.
Barca and Atletico, who play on Sunday, have drawn on their last two outings, including a 0-0 stalemate between the pair at Atletico's Calderon stadium this month, allowing Real to close the gap in the three-team title race.
Saturday's victory at the Bernabeu was Real's fifth in a row in La Liga since a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in December and France forward Karim Benzema was also on target as Carlo Ancelotti's side moved on to 53 points from 21 matches.
Barca and Atletico have 51 points ahead of their games on Sunday at home to Malaga and away at Rayo Vallecano.
Ronaldo showed off the FIFA Ballon d'Or award for the world's best player he won this month before kickoff and the Portugal forward came close to scoring moments before the break after a frustrating first half for the home side.
Luka Modric floated a cross over from the right and Ronaldo connected with a spectacular overhead kick that forced a superb reaction save from Roberto.
Real had struggled to dominate their lowly but well-organised opponents but Ronaldo, whose later free kick was deflected onto the crossbar, finally beat the Granada goalkeeper 11 minutes into the second period.
He picked up a pass from Modric just inside the area and managed to squeeze a shot into the bottom corner despite the attentions of several defenders.
Marcelo skipped through and pulled the ball back for Benzema to make it 2-0 in the 74th minute.
Real's record signing Gareth Bale took a painful-looking kick to the groin in the eighth minute and was replaced by forward Jese at halftime.
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo
Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images