Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring. AFP/Javier Soriano
MADRID - Real Madrid climbed to the top of La Liga on Saturday after Karim Benzema's flicked finish helped them claim a thrilling 2-1 victory over Barcelona in a wild Clasico at Valdebebas.
Benzema's superb piece of skill and a deflected Toni Kroos free-kick put Madrid in charge and while Oscar Mingueza pulled one back for Barca, they fell to defeat in what could be Lionel Messi's final appearance in this fixture.
Victory means Real Madrid go level on points with Atletico, with the top three now separated by a single point.
Atletico, without the injured Luis Suarez, face Real Betis on Sunday.
But Real Madrid now owns the better head-to-head against both of their rivals while Barcelona and Atletico still have to play each other at Camp Nou in the run-in.
With Atletico stumbling and both Barca and Real Madrid hitting their stride, this game looked set to define, if not the title, then who would become favourites to be crowned champions in May.
The result was a riveting contest at a rain-soaked Alfredo di Stefano stadium -- certainly, one of the most exciting Clasicos in years -- that saw both teams squander numerous chances, several efforts come back off the woodwork and Casemiro sent off in extra time.