Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice and help Barcelona to a 4-2 win at home to Real Betis that moved them to within striking distance of the La Liga title on Sunday.
The World Player of the Year had missed Barca's humiliating Champions League semi-final exit to Bayern Munich on Wednesday as he recovered from a hamstring problem, but came on in the 56th minute at 2-2 to score the goals that sealed the victory.
Barca have 88 points with four games left to play, 11 ahead of second-placed Real Madrid who triumphed 4-3 at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Tito Vilanova's side, who need two more points to secure a fourth league title in five years, could claim the trophy on Wednesday if Real fail to win at home to Malaga.
Barca hit by early setback
Barca were behind from the second minute after some casual defending allowed Dorlan Pabon to burst through and fire past Jose Manuel Pinto, who was deputising for the injured Victor Valdes.
The hosts reacted quickly with Andres Iniesta dancing to the byline and crossing for Alexis Sanchez to bullet in a diving header in the ninth.
Betis are a team who like to attack opponents and as a result chances fell to either side in an open encounter. An out-of-sorts David Villa could have had a hat-trick before halftime, his worst miss a volley over after wonderful approach play from Andres Iniesta and Xavi, while Pinto denied Salva Sevilla from close range. Barca's Cristian Tello lashed a shot against the crossbar which bounced down on the line, and almost immediately Betis were ahead again when Ruben Perez thundered a 30-metre shot into the top corner in the 43rd. Villa made amends for his earlier misses with a far-post header from Dani Alves's cross to level in the 56th and immediately made way for Messi, who entered to a huge roar. He had barely touched the ball before he struck the third, curling a freekick over the wall and beyond Betis keeper Adrian.
A second Messi freekick struck the crossbar but he crowned the night with the goal of the game, tapping in from an Alexis cross after a clever backheel from Iniesta, to take his league tally to 46.
‘Dying swan’ Luiz irks Fergie
Manchester: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson accused Chelsea's Brazilian defender David Luiz of acting like a "dying swan" in the incident that led to United defender Rafael da Silva being sent off in their encounter at Old Trafford.
The veteran United manager conceded that his team did not deserve anything out of a game in which they failed to score at home in the league for the first time in 67 matches, but he was angered by Rafael's late dismissal. "He (Rafael) retaliates, but he (David Luiz) quite clearly elbows him twice then rolls about like a dying swan and that convinces the referee," said Ferguson. "He was smiling. It's bad. What kind of professional is that?”
Dortmund get half million requests!
Munich: Borussia Dortmund have received more than half a million ticket applications for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga club said on Monday.
Borussia, who have an average home attendance of around 80,000, said 502,567 fans had applied for tickets online before Sunday's deadline.