Barcelona and Atletico Madrid got the result only Real Madrid wanted as they drew 1-1 in a tightly-contested match at the Nou Camp.
Real had dropped points for the first time this season earlier in the evening at home to Villarreal and must have feared reigning champions Barcelona would cut their lead to one point when Ivan Rakitic headed home an inviting Andres Iniesta cross in the 41st minute.
But Diego Simeone's men were dogged opponents and got the equaliser their efforts deserved when substitute Angel Correa got the better of Javier Mascherano to score after an hour's play.
There was also the concerning sight of Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets coming off in the second half for coach Luis Enrique, with Messi due to miss up to three weeks with a groin injury.
Messi had Barca's first effort on goal in the 14th minute but it was comfortably saved by Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
The visitors seemed content to absorb pressure and break when the opportunity arose, and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco brought Marc-Andre ter Stegen into the action as he pushed away his angled drive after a quarter of an hour.
Barca defender Mascherano, so sloppy in the home defeat to Alaves, was on his toes with a goal-saving tackle to deny Kevin Gameiro a tap-in.
Atletico looked well drilled at the back, operating efficiently as a defensive unit to deny Barcelona time and space in the attacking third.
A chink of light emerged after 32 minutes as Jordi Alba's low cross from the left reached Luis Suarez, but Diego Godin was able to snuff out his fellow Uruguayan's effort.
The Nou Camp was baying for a penalty seconds later when Iniesta's flicked pass appeared to strike the hand of Gabi but nothing was given, and Neymar had the crowd on their feet with a shot just wide from the edge of the box after some tenacious play from Rakitic.
Antoine Griezmann denied Messi after the Argentinian had wriggled past three men and exchanged passes with Sergi Roberto, but the breakthrough finally came in the 41st minute.
Iniesta received the ball on the left from a short corner and his right-footed cross had sufficient whip and pace on it to give Rakitic an easy task to glance a header past Oblak from six yards.
Atletico had to come out and show more ambition and Griezmann twice tried his luck early in the second period without success.
Barcelona suffered two injury losses as first Busquets came off to be replaced by Andre Gomes and even more significantly, Messi left the pitch nursing what appeared to be a groin problem. Arda Turan came on for the Argentinian maestro.
Things were to get even worse for Enrique's men as Atleti levelled on the hour.
A quickly-taken free-kick was flicked around the corner by Fernando Torres to fellow substitute Correa, whose clever feint left Mascherano on the deck before he steered a low right-foot shot from a central position past Ter Stegen with the help of the post.
Correa made a less impressive contribution when he took out Suarez on the edge of his own area, but breathed a sigh of relief as Neymar's resultant free-kick flicked off the wall and over the top as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
The Brazilian superstar forced Oblak into another save at his near post after drifting past Juanfran, and Gerard Pique glanced a header wide as Neymar curled in a set-piece from the left in the 83rd minute.
Alba flashed over another chance after a typically brisk Barca move and Godin's header at the other end drew an athletic save from Ter Stegen, but a winning goal eluded both sides.