Real Madrid reopened their gap at the top of La Liga to four points over second-placed Barcelona with a 4-1 victory in the Madrid derby at the Vincente Calderon.
Once again Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero for Real as he struck three times, including a two sensational long-range efforts.
Having registered their third draw in five La Liga matches at the weekend with a 0-0 stalemate against Valencia, Real's once 10 point lead over their bitter rivals was beginning to look mighty precarious.
But the nerves that Real's players must have been feeling would have been mitigated by their excellent recent record against Atletico. Indeed Real had not lost to their neighbors in over a decade.
And Cristiano Ronaldo thought he would be given an excellent opportunity to open the scoring on Wednesday night when the Portuguese star appealed for a penalty in the 23rd minute. But the referee was nonplussed by Real's protestations.
Perhaps angered by that penalty denial, Ronaldo broke the deadlock in typically spectacular style just two minutes later. With his familiar run-up and striking technique, Ronaldo let fly on a free-kick from fully 35 yards out that completely befuddled Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois.
But Atletico were not going to go down easy in front of their home supporters and they grabbed an equalizer 10 minutes into the second half. Adrian curled in a right-footed cross from the left side of the box and Radamel Falcao rose to head in a trademark powerful header past Iker Casillas.
But Real would not be denied their crucial three points and again took the lead through yet another superb goal from Ronaldo.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso laid the ball to the former Manchester United forward, who took a touch inside before unleashing a swerving, dipping drive that soared over the head of Courtois. Although the ball was close to the Belgium keeper, such was the movement Ronaldo put on the ball, it is hard to criticize his failure to keep it out.
And it was Ronaldo who was given the opportunity to seal the win for Real and complete his hat-trick, from the penalty spot. Substitute Gonzalo Higuain had won the spot-kick following a challenge from Diego Godin and Ronaldo made no mistake in side-footing the ball low past Courtois.
Not yet done for the evening, Real put an exclamation point on the victory with a goal from substitute Jose Callejon two minutes from the end of normal time.