Madrid:Barcelona opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the Spanish league table after humbling arch rivals Real Madrid 6-2 in a one-sided 'Clasico' at Real's Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
It was Real's last shot at retaining their title but Barca outclassed their rivals with a footballing exhibition yesterday and, with just four games remaining, are now poised to win their first league title since 2006.
Real took a 14th-minute lead through Gonzalo Higuain but Barca went on to end Real's 18-match unbeaten run with an emphatic win to clinch a league double over their foes having beaten them 2-0 at Camp Nou.
Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi both grabbed a brace and centre-backs Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were also on target as Barca ran riot in Madrid and brought up a century of goals in the league.
"We have taken a giant step towards the title and are so close now," said jubilant Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
"We didn't want to hide here and tried to be brave like we have been all season and go for the win.
"It is not easy to win at the Bernabeu and this is one of the happiest days of my footballing life as we have made a lot of people happy."
Barca now go into Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg match at Chelsea - with the first leg finishing 0-0 - in high spirits.
"This win gives us a lot of confidence for the Chelsea game," explained Guardiola. "Rome (where the final will be played) is so close. We don't feel tired and just have to brave and go for it."
Real sprung a surprise by throwing Arjen Robben into the starting line-up for his first appearance since the Dutchman tore a muscle in his right leg during the 3-2 win over Getafe ten days ago.
After facing Chelsea in Europe on Tuesday Barcelona may have had some heavy legs and Eric Abidal was one player out of sorts with the Frenchman struggling to contain the lively Robben.
With 14 minutes gone Sergio Ramos strolled past Abidal to put in a cross and Higuain fired in his 19th goal of the season.
It was a real setback for Barca but they responded with two goals in as many minutes.
A deft chipped pass from Messi put Henry in on goal in the 18th minute and the Frenchman kept his cool to sidefoot past Iker Casillas.
Real had held the lead for just four minutes and then fell behind in the 20th minute.
Henry won a free-kick and Xavi floated in a great cross which captain Puyol met with a bullet header for his first goal of the season.
Real almost equalised through Robben a minute later but thereafter were second best with Casillas keeping his team in the game, thwarting Messi on three occasions while Eto'o and Dani Alves also went close.
Messi finally got his goal on 35 minutes after a terrible mistake from Lass Diarra.
Xavi stole the ball off the dawdling Diarra and released Messi who prodded the ball past the overworked Real keeper.
Barca gave Real a footballing lesson for the remainder of the half with slick passing as Real chased shadows and the home fans responded with jeers.
Those turned to cheers when Ramos headed in a Robben cross in the 56th minute to make it 3-2.
It was a foothold in a match that should have been put to bed but Ramos then made a terrible mess of the offside trap two minutes later and Henry chipped the ball over Casillas to restore Barca's two goal cushion.
Messi scored again in the 75th minute as Real were torn apart again and thousands of disgruntled home fans flocked out of the Bernabeu.
Pique completed the scoring on 82 minutes to bring up a century of goals for Barca in the league.