Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (R) duels for the ball with Abraham Minero of Real Zaragoza during the la Liga Match between FC Barcelona and Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou on November 19, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.
Real Madrid and Barcelona pulled away at the top of La Liga when leader Real edged third-placed Valencia 3-2 away in a thrilling but ill-tempered clash after Barcelona thumped visiting Real Zaragoza 4-0 on Saturday.
Real's victory, courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, maintained its three-point lead over Barcelona in second and lifted Jose Mourinho's side to 31 points from 12 matches.
Spanish and European champion Barcelona widened its advantage over Valencia, the last club other than the big two to win the title back in 2004, to four points.
La Liga top scorer Lionel Messi struck his 15th of the season at a damp Nou Camp, with Gerard Pique and substitute David Villa also netting against their former club and Pique's central defensive partner Carles Puyol scoring a rare goal.
An aggressive Valencia put Real under early pressure at the Mestalla but a lapse in concentration allowed Benzema to open the scoring in the 20th minute. Valencia dominated the second half as the yellow cards came thick and fast in response to some robust tackling before Ramos outjumped his markers to nod home a second in the 72nd.
Home striker Roberto Soldado made it 2-1 three minutes later with a powerful drive before Ronaldo scored his 14th of the campaign in the 78th and Soldado poked in his second with eight minutes of regular time left to set up a thrilling finish.
In almost the final action of the game deep into added time, the ball appeared to strike a Real defender near his arm as he lay on the ground by the goalline but the referee waved away Valencia's frantic appeals for a penalty. The irate home players surrounded the officials at the final whistle and Mourinho was pelted with objects as he quickly made his way down the tunnel.
Elsewhere, Borja Valero's first-half goal gave Villarreal a 1-0 win over visiting Real Betis.