Real Madrid secured its first Spanish Supercopa since 2008 on away goals after a narrow win over archrival Barcelona in Wednesday night's second leg at the Bernabeu.
The visitors were then reduced to 10 men as Adriano was shown a straight red card for denying Ronaldo a clear goalscoring opportunity, but they regained their composure and were brought back into the game by a stunning free-kick from Lionel Messi just before halftime.
"The first half belonged to us and generally the whole game did," Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas said. "We came in on a bad run and the fans were doubting us a bit, but there are days when you have good luck and days when you have bad."
Chances continued to come at both ends after the break but Real failed to make its man advantage count and was nearly made to pay as Messi shot just inches wide deep into stoppage time.
The game provided coach Jose Mourinho with the last piece of silverware missing from his Spanish trophy cabinet. The Portuguese coach's 20th title means he has won every trophy available in the four leagues where he's coached -- Spain, England, Italy and Portugal.
Real had failed to win any of its previous three games this season but did not seem like a team lacking in confidence as it stormed out of the gates early on.
Higuain should have opened the scoring on seven minutes when his low effort across Victor Valdes' net was well-blocked by the keeper, but the Argentinian was gifted his goal only two minutes later by national-team compatriot Javier Mascherano as the Barca defender misjudged a long ball forward from Pepe and allowed Higuain to run through and this time finish low beyond Valdes.
And it was two just nine minutes later as Ronaldo pounced on an error this time by Gerard Pique. The Portuguese brilliantly back-flicked the ball into his path and, despite a poor second touch, his powerful shot rebounded in off Valdes' body.
The chances continued to come for Real as Valdes again denied Higuain from a narrow angle before Pepe had a header controversially ruled out for a push on Mascherano.
Part of Barca's disorganization at the back possibly could be put down to a late change in the starting lineup as the injured Dani Alves had to be replaced by Jordi Alba with Adriano moving to right back, and the Brazilian's torrid evening only lasted 27 minutes as he hauled down Ronaldo when he seemed set to break free on Valdes once more.
"I wouldn't say we started badly," Vilanova said. "Madrid weren't running over us; they played two balls in behind that surprised us, although it is true that Higuain already had another chance. Madrid took their chances but I want to take the positives."
After another unsettling five-minute period for the Catalans, new coach Tito Vilanova eventually introduced Martin Montoya for Alexis Sanchez and a return to four at the back seemed to offer the visitors some comfort as they began to make an impression on the game.
Montoya was inches away from converting a vicious low cross from Andres Iniesta before Messi did eventually halve the deficit moments before the break with an incredible swerving free kick from 30 yards.
Ronaldo nearly responded with a long-range effort himself that flew just past and Angel Di Maria also shot narrowly wide as Madrid ended the half threatening a third.
However, at the start of the second period, it was Barca's tiki-taka that began to dictate play as the pace of the game dropped markedly.
Pedro very nearly scored a carbon copy of his goal in the first leg as Mascherano's perfectly weighted pass saw him through on goal but his prodded finish did not have enough power to get through Casillas' legs and the Spain captain collected at the second attempt.
Sami Khedira then nearly restored Real's two-goal cushion but was denied by another fine Valdes save at the end of a brilliant run.
Barca remained dangerous, though, and another brilliant piece of play from Messi released Alba through on goal, but he just overran the ball as he rounded Casillas and was eventually crowded out.
Higuain should have given Real breathing space with 11 minutes remaining but he hit the outside of the post with only Valdes to beat and that miss nearly cost his side as Barca came desperately close to equalizing in stoppage time.
Firstly, Montoya was denied by a solid save from Casillas before Messi seemed destined to hand Barca the cup as he found space on his favored left side just outside the area but the ball slipped just wide and Real clung on for its Supercopa title in four years.