Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid reclaim sole possession of the Spanish league on Sunday, scoring one goal and setting up another in a dominant 3-0 victory over 10-man Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ronaldo recorded his league-leading 24th goal of the season to get Madrid rolling in the 11th minute.
The Ballon d'Or winner then passed for Marcelo to score in the 49th and ensure Madrid extended its undefeated streak in all competitions to 29 straight matches.
With Madrid firmly in control, the game turned testy with several bookings until David Navarro saw a direct red for tackling Ronaldo from behind in the 64th.
Ronaldo went close to getting another goal when he hit the crossbar after Levante defender Nikos Karabelas had already turning in an own goal in the 82nd.
Madrid's win came a week after Ronaldo scored to salvage a draw at Atletico Madrid, and it lifted Carlo Ancelotti's side three points clear of its crosstown rivals at the top of the table.
Barcelona was left four points adrift of the pacesetters following Saturday's stunning 1-0 defeat at Valladolid.
"It's an important moment because everything is turning out well and there is a good atmosphere surrounding the team," said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. "We have to continue forward. We have a small advantage in the league but we can't think about anything other than the next game. It's risky not to."
Madrid's placid outing was tarnished when fullback Dani Carvajal collapsed with an apparent leg injury and had to been carried off in the 90th, leaving the hosts with 10 men for stoppage time.
Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 at Valencia to increase its hold on fourth place and the last Champions League berth.
Sevilla routed Almeria 3-1 on the road to earn its third consecutive victory, while Espanyol also eased to a 3-1 home win over Elche.
Levante was without its two first-choice midfielders in Papakouly Diop and Simao Mate, but it arrived on an eight-round unbeaten run, largely thanks to the outstanding play of goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
And Navas did well to get a glove on Ronaldo's volley to turn back the match's first goal-bound shot in the sixth minute.
No denying Ronaldo
There was no denying Ronaldo a second time, however.
The Portugal forward rose up to meet Angel Di Maria's corner kick and thump the ball beyond Navas, who got a touch on the ball but not enough to keep it out of his net.
"Ronaldo's goal was a blow," said Levante coach Joaquin Caparros. "But if he hadn't scored then, Madrid would have scored another way."
Ronaldo passed for Marcelo to put the result beyond doubt when he drew in two defenders and slid the ball for the fullback to use a smart change of foot to open up an angle and curl his shot home.
Madrid would have enjoyed an even bigger win except for Navas, who denied Karim Benzema on four occasions, including one feline leap to push Benzema's header off this post in first-half injury time.
Navarro's sending off inflamed Caparros. The veteran coach stormed out of the dugout and engaged in a brief shouting match with some Madrid supporters in the stands.
Madrid pressed for another goal, with Benzema heading the ball off the woodwork again in the 72nd before Navas bettered him twice more. But the third goal eventually fell thanks to Karabelas' flubbed clearance of a cross by Marcelo.
"We were almost perfect today," said Marcelo. "We couldn't fail. Of course it's better that others slip up, but we just focus on ourselves."
Valencia struck first through Pablo Alcacer's goal in the 23rd, but Aritz Aduriz levelled in the 53rd with a penalty kick after Sofiane Feghouli fouled Ander Herrera in the area as Bilbao inched seven points clear of fifth-place Villarreal.
Sevilla's Carlos Bacca, Daniel Carrico and Kevin Gameiro all scored before Aleix Vidal took Almeria's consolation goal.
Espanyol forward Simao Sabrosa crossed from set pieces for David Lopez and Diego Colotto to score. Luis "Pizzi" Afonso's deflected shot made it 3-0 before Espanyol fullback Juan Fuentes netted an own goal in the 88th.
Sevilla remained in seventh place, with Valencia, Espanyol and Levante all in a pack at five points behind.
Almeria stayed in the relegation zone, with Elche clinging to safety by three points.