Real Madrid restored their four-point lead over Barcelona when Cristiano Ronaldo netted his seventh hat-trick of the La Liga campaign in a 4-1 drubbing of city neighbours Atletico on Wednesday.
Real had seen their lead over archrivals whittled down to one point after Sundays 0-0 draw at home to Valencia and Barcas 4-0 win at home to Getafe on Tuesday and needed a win to keep their bid for a first title in four years on track.
Ronaldo was the difference between the sides at the Calderon and the Portuguese international smashed in a free kick to open the scoring in the 25th minute before Radamel Falcao nodded an equaliser 10 minutes into the second half.
Atletico,who have not beaten Real in almost 13 years,pressed forward in search of an unlikely winner but Ronaldo made it 2-1 in the 68th minute when he drifted in from the left and arrowed a long-range shot over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Atletico defender Diego Godin felled Gonzalo Higuain in the penalty area around 10 minutes from time and Ronaldo stroked the spot kick past Courtois for his 40th league goal of the campaign,equaling the La Liga record he set last season. He is one ahead of Barca forward and World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.