Real Madrid fans and officials were waking up to face one of the darkest moments in the club's history on Sunday after the champions suffered a record 6-2 humiliation at the hands of arch rivals Barcelona.
It was the first time in the 80-year history of "El Clasico" that Barca had knocked six past Real in Madrid and the stunning victory for Pep Guardiola's side on Saturday put them within touching distance of a first league title in three years.
Barca fans partied into the early hours of the morning on the streets of the Catalan capital and thronged the city's airport to welcome back their heroes, seven points clear at the top of the table with four matches left.
"The best team in the world is leaving the Bernabeu as champions," said the headline in Madrid-based sports daily Marca, alongside a photograph of Barca captain Carles Puyol kissing his armband in the colours of the Catalan flag.
"The best Barca team of all time was on display on Saturday and led Madrid a merry dance they will never forget," said daily El Pais below a photograph of Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o celebrating one of the Frenchman's two goals.
"Guardiola's side put on a exhibition on the most challenging of stages against its only rival for the league, who were like putty in their hands," it added.
Barca's victory evoked memories of a Johan Cruyff-inspired 5-0 win in February 1974 and took their goal tally for the season to 100 in 34 league matches, seven short of the record set by Real in 1989/90.
It was sweet revenge for players like Puyol, Xavi and Samuel Eto'o, who had to applaud their rivals, newly-crowned champions for a second straight year, on to the pitch before last year's match at the Bernabeu which Real won 4-1.
With the Spanish league title all but secured, Barca are still in with a chance of adding the Champions League and the King's Cup to this season's trophy haul.
El Pais columnist Ramon Besa praised Guardiola for his courage in sticking with Barca's attacking philosophy and picked out midfielder Xavi as the key to their recent success.
"The movement of the Barca players is clean and elegant, like tap dancing," Besa wrote.
"Barcelona mark out the rhythm of their attacks so precisely that they function like a Swiss watch in terms of precision -- exact and on time."
The Barcelona-based sports papers were ecstatic.
"Goalfest, Humiliation and Champions!," screamed the headline in Sport. The day Barca knocked six past Real in Madrid would never be forgotten, it added.
"This time the good guys won," said El Mundo Deportivo columnist Fernando Polo.
"The team that was playing better than anyone the whole season, scoring more goals than anyone, giving exhibitions day after day and destroying records was Pep Guardiola's Barca. Sometimes life is fair."
Marca took the chance to look forward and said the "scandalous goalfest" had brought to a close a black period for Real Madrid.
It slammed sporting director Predrag Mijatovic for a series of poor signings and said the institutional chaos wrought by former president Ramon Calderon, who was forced out in January in a vote-rigging scandal, had culminated in "the greatest of humiliations" on Saturday against Barca.
"And what now?" asked columnist Miguel Serrano. The time was ripe for former president and construction magnate Florentino Perez to return to the club and stand in the presidential elections due in mid June, he wrote.
"We have to rebuild this house, which is a ruin."