MADRID, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Gonzalo Higuain scored an injury-time penalty to earn Real Madrid a 2-1 away victory over Atletico Madrid in the city derby on Saturday.
The Argentine buried a spot kick in the last minute, just after Portugal winger Simao Sabrosa had grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser for Atletico with a freekick.
Atletico have not beaten their neighbours since June 1999 and were trailing after only 40 seconds when the Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy netted from distance.
The home side had defender Luis Perea sent off, and Van Nistelrooy followed him for another red card before the break.
With both sides reduced to 10 men, Atletico pressed hard and looked to have at least grabbed a point at the end, before John Heitinga tripped Royston Drenthe in the area for the penalty in the 97th minute.
"We have proven many times that we are capable of scoring goals right up to the last minute," said Real coach Bernd Schuster, who went on to criticise the referee.
"Van Nistelrooy's sending off was clearly a case of compensating the other side. It was because of the referee we didn't win 5-1."
Real made it six unbeaten matches in the league, while Atletico have now slumped to three defeats in a row.
In the late game, Villarreal were held to a 0-0 draw at Espanyol that put them one point clear at the top, ahead of Real and Valencia. Valencia host Numancia on Sunday when Barcelona visit Athletic Bilbao.
At the Calderon, there appeared to be little on for Van Nistelrooy when he received the ball with his back to goal in the first minute, but he was given space to turn and surprised Leo Franco at his near post.
Wesley Sneijder then hit the bar and Sergio Aguero replied for the home side hitting the post soon after. The game was thrown open when Perea was red-carded after he caught Sneijder in the face with a flailing arm.
But Van Nistelrooy soon followed after the referee harshly showed him a red for clumsily upending Maniche.
Atletico pressed on after the break but struggled to beat Iker Casillas until they won a freekick on the edge of the area at the end. Simao curled it over the wall to spark wild celebrations on the pitch and in the stands.
But it only lasted a few minutes and there was a sense of inevitability as Atletico went on to concede the penalty deep into injury time.
"Simao's goal was just reward for our audacity after the break, but it is devastating to concede a goal in the first and 96th minutes," said Atletico coach Javier Aguirre.