Real Madrid and Barcelona produced the most enthralling Clásico since the teams' 3-3 draw in 2007 on Sunday night. And like that superb spectacle, Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick, only this time the contest ended 4-3 in Barça's favour.
Seven goals, three penalties and a red card provided a feast of football at the Santiago Bernabéu. Karim Benzema had eight efforts at goal alone, yet it is Messi who will deservedly receive the plaudits after he became the first ever player to hit a Clásico hat-trick at Madrid's ground.
Atlético Madrid now top the Primera Liga with 70 points, one ahead of Madrid and Barça with nine games remaining.
Messi's hat-trick was decisive in the seven-goal thriller
Spain's two giants have not drawn 0-0 against each other since 2002 and with an array of world-class attackers on show a repeat was unfeasible. Andrés Iniesta extinguished any possibility of a goalless game in the seventh minute to finish a wonderful Barça move.
Having missed a gilt-edged chance in the 12th minute, Benzema made amends with a quick-fire double to put Madrid ahead after 24 minutes and almost claimed a treble soon after, but Gerard Piqué cleared his effort off the line.
With Madrid in the ascendant, Messi neatly equalised in the 42nd minute from Dani Carvajal's bundled pass to draw the Catalans level at the interval.
Cristiano Ronaldo had been on the periphery but inevitably delivered when he drove at a startled Dani Alves, who flicked out his right foot and upended him in the 54th minute. The foul was committed outside of the area yet referee Alberto Undiano erroneously pointed at the penalty spot.
Valdés had denied the pesky Benzema minutes earlier and dived the correct way, but Ronaldo arrowed his spotkick into the bottom left-hand corner.
Ronaldo regained Madrid's lead early in the second-half
Sergio Ramos had shamelessly demanded Undiano send Alves off for his foul on Ronaldo, which might have explained why the official dismissed the Real captain after the game's key moment. Messi's pass for Neymar was majestic and as the Brazilian ran across Ramos he was felled. Ramos, comically, saw red for the 19th time in his career and Messi coolly converted to make it 3-3.
With madrid a man light, Barcelona began to dominate possession and Alves' right-footer crashed off Diego López's right-hand post. Barça were gifted their chance to claim victory when Alonso clumsily tripped Iniesta in the 18-yard box with eight minutes remaining.
Messi assumed responsibility again and emphatically won the match.
Real Madrid: López; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Modrić (Morata - 90'), Di María (Isco - 85'); Ronaldo, Bale, Karim Benzema (Varane - 66')
Barcelona: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets; Messi, Neymar (Pedro - 69'), Fàbregas (Sánchez - 78')
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