Real Madrid continued their march toward the La Liga title after an enthralling 3-2 victory at Real Betis on Saturday evening.
On paper the match liked it might be another straightforward victory for a Real side that had won their last 10 league games, but Betis put up stern resistance and will feel aggrieved not to have taken something from the game.
Indeed it was Betis who struck first through a quite wonderful goal in the 10th minute. Ruben Castro controlled a high ball brilliantly on the edge of the box before feeding Jorge Molina, who finished emphatically past Iker Casillas into the roof of the net.
Real were not deterred, though, and they found their way back into the match after 25 minutes. Mesut Ozil played a neat ball over the top that was set upon with glee by Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine striker ran through into the area before finishing powerfully with his right foot as he was challenged.
And order seemed fully restored when Real took the lead seven minutes after the break. Kaka's lofted pass deflected off a Betis defender before finding its way to Marcelo down the left of the box. The Brazilian's touch inside, seemingly meant for himself, was seized upon by Cristiano Ronaldo, who smashed the bouncing ball past Betis keeper Fabricio Agosto.
Betis were not ready to lie down just yet, however, and almost straight from the restart the home side won a corner. The set piece escaped a bevy of bodies all the way through to the back-post where Alvaro Arbeloa was waiting. The right back's disastrous control off his chest presented the ball straight into the path of the onrushing Jefferson Antonio Montero, who crisply fired home on the half volley.
The entertaining contest then became increasingly stretched as both sides fancied that they could grab all three points.
Despite Betis continuing to look menacing it was Real that snatched the game's decisive fifth goal, again courtesy of star-man Ronaldo. Kaka's corner was met by Sergio Ramos, whose header was parried by Fabricio, but only into the path of the Portuguese forward. Again Ronaldo pounced to strike the ball home with his left foot.
As well as their impressive play, Betis will feel mightily aggrieved not to have been given at least one penalty after two strong claims for handball in the area against their opponents. The first culprit was Xabi Alonso, whose mis-control saw the ball bounce up and strike him clearly on his hand in the 64th minute.
And Betis perhaps had an even stronger appeal turned down as the clock ran down in injury time at the end of the match. This time Sergio Ramos was the man in question as he dived to block Montero's shot and the ball seemed to bounce up off his outstretched arm.
But it was not to be for Betis and Real held on to take a surely insurmountable 13-point lead at the head of La Liga.