A brace from the excellent Isco helped Real Madrid overcome Espanyol and secure a crucial three points at the Bernabeu on Sunday.
The ethereal, elegant Spaniard gave his side the lead in a dominant first-half, and added a second twenty minutes from time to seal the win.
Espanyol came close on more than one occasion to levelling the scores in the second-half, but they were unable to convert the chances they created.
Beginning the game an unprecedented ten points behind Barcelona, Real Madrid were very nearly in front within the first minute when Isco raced through on goal but saw his shot saved by Pau Lopez.
There was a palpable sense of expectation around the Bernabeu, a feeling that anything but a comfortable win would be inconceivable. And the inexorable dominance of the hosts in the early stages suggested that the players were aware of it, too.
Despite Real Madrid's complete control, though, Espanyol remained relatively compact and resilient, albeit having hardly ventured out of their own half.
But just before the half-hour mark, Isco made amends for his earlier miss to poke Real Madrid into the lead after a delicate through ball from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Zinedine Zidane's side threatened to run away with the game after the goal, Ronaldo squandering two chances to double the lead.
Espanyol would have been grateful to reach half-time just one goal down, but they came very close to an unexpected equaliser when Gerard Moreno turned and struck a left-footed shot against the post.
Immediately after the break, Keylor Navas was forced into action to keep out substitute Marc Navarro, who had found space on the right-hand side.
There was a notable improvement from Espanyol, who had grown more adventurous in search of an equaliser and appeared far more confident than they had for the majority of the first half.
The visitors continued to create the better chances of an increasingly open second-half, but they were punished for their profligacy with 70 minutes played when Isco doubled his tally with an expertly taken finish after a rapid counter attack.
The second goal ultimately spelled the end for Espanyol, who had been dogged and combative, but lacked enough of an edge in attack.
Victory saw Real Madrid climb to fifth in the fledgling La Liga table, but still seven points behind Ernesto Valverde's impressive Barcelona.