However, there was no such slip-up for Manchester United, who hammered Norwich City 4-0 to maintain their firm grip on the Premier League, or Bayern Munich, who stayed 17 points clear in the Bundesliga with a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim.
The damage to Barcelona was limited after second-place Atlético Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw at Málaga on Sunday in a tight game featuring two of the meanest defenses in the Spanish top flight.
After Real dumped holders Barça out of the King’s Cup 4-2 on aggregate, they underlined their recent superiority over their archrivals when a depleted team inflicted only a second league defeat of the campaign on the Catalan club.
Lionel Messi cancelled out Karim Benzema’s early strike, equalling Real great Alfredo Di Stefano Clásico scoring record of 18 goals, before Sergio Ramos nodded a late winner for Real from a Luka Modric corner. Barça have 68 points from 26 matches with Atlético on 57 and Real 55 ahead of their Champions League last-16 second leg at Manchester United on Tuesday.