Barcelona's faltering La Liga title challenge remains alive after Lionel Messi’s free-kick earned a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
With a comparatively small crowd of an estimated 42,000 at Camp Nou, the two sides produced an entertaining encounter and although Aritz Aduriz put the visitors ahead, Barca ultimately produced the goods when they needed to.
Aduriz broke the deadlock five minutes after the break and Barca looked set to be frustrated for the match's entirety, but they eventually fought back in the final 20 minutes.
Pedro equalised with 18 minutes to go and Messi found the crucial goal two minutes later from a free-kick, which opposing goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz - who was otherwise impressive - should have done better with.
The win moves Barcelona back to within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid and ended a run of three successive defeats in all competitions, while Athletic's lead ahead of Sevilla in fourth was cut to just three points.
Gerardo Martino acknowledged in the build-up that his debut season in Europe has not been satisfying after the club's UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey challenges dissolved within the space of a week.
Things threatened to get even worse for Martino and Barca in the 11th minute, but Jose Manuel Pinto palmed Aduriz's shot around the post after Alex Song squandered possession in midfield.
That let-off seemed to spark Barca into life and Pedro went close four minutes later, but he could only hit a tame effort straight at Iraizoz following Messi's throughball with the Argentina star seeing a goal chalked off for offside shortly after.
They were lucky to stay level in the 31st minute, however.
The in-form Aduriz saw a spectacular overhead kick come back off the crossbar, before Pinto smartly parried away Markel Susaeta's effort from the rebound.
Barca responded by hitting the bar themselves almost immediately after as Alexis Sanchez skewed a close-range effort on to the goal frame following Adriano's low cross.
Iraizoz was kept busy until the break, but parity remained and Athletic capitalised early on in the second period.
The unconvincing Marc Bartra surrendered possession to Aduriz on the edge of the area and the Spaniard coolly slotted a precise shot into the bottom-right corner for his 16th Liga goal of the season.
Barca finally drew level in the 72nd minute as Pedro quickly shifted his feet to divert Sanchez’s wayward effort past Iraizoz and they took the lead just a few moments later.
Messi finally found his shooting boots from a free-kick, placing an effort through the poorly-formed wall and Iraizoz inexcusably let it fly under him.
Messi and substitute Cristian Tello went close to adding a third late on, and Mikel Rico saw a last-gasp shot blocked away for the visitors.
Despite a late flurry, the champions held on to their slender win to close the gap on Atletico, while Athletic’s grip of the final Champions League place slipped ahead of next week’s showdown with Sevilla.
|Coach: G. Martino|
|I´m glad Rochdale haven´t made the news - Hughes|
|Getafe 2 Celta Vigo 1: Hosts come from behind for first win in 10|
|Real hit back at media reports over transfer dealings|
|Rochdale 1 Stoke City 4: Joy and angst for Bojan as Premier League side progress|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Kuyt at the double in Fenerbahce win, Besiktas back on track|
|Senegal v Algeria: Morale is high, insists Gourcuff|
|Cassano leaves beleaguered Parma|
|Copa del Rey Preview: Atleti look to overturn Barca advantage, Espanyol wary|
|Atletico Madrid v Barcelona: Griezmann targets second-leg fightback|
|Sheffield United v Tottenham: Clough expects fired-up Spurs for second leg|
|Cape Verde 0 Zambia 0: Stalemate sends both sides out|
|Democratic Republic of Congo 1 Tunisia 1: Both teams qualify for quarter-finals|
|FA Cup fifth round: Middlesbrough handed Arsenal test|
|South Africa v Ghana: Must-win game for Mashaba´s men|
|Parma v Juventus: Serie A leaders strong favourites to reach semi-finals|
|Van Praag planning to stand for FIFA presidency|
|Inter snap up Brozovic|
|Van Persie unsure of long-term United future|
|Broken metatarsal rules El Shaarawy out for at least six weeks|
|FIFA: No disciplinary proceedings against Real|
|No Plan B if Guardiola goes - Rummenigge|
|Millwall take Hooiveld on loan|
|Chile v United States: Klinsmann has high hopes for young stars|
|Carver to lead Newcastle until end of season|
|Shenaishil taking positives from last-four exit|
|Neymar happy with life at Barca and Messi relationship|
|Lucas Silva ready for life at Real|
|Milan ´always with Inzaghi´ - Menez|
|Rodriguez living the dream at Real|
|Stielike expecting Australia in final|
|Mourinho not dwelling on Bradford defeat|
|Schweinsteiger under no pressure to extend Bayern contract|
|Herd heads to Wigan on loan|
|Inter defensive duo suffer hamstring tears|
|UAE coach Ali eyes Asian Cup final|
|Gattuso dreaming of managing Rangers|
|Fiorentina agree return of Gilardino on loan|
|Sakho hits back at critics|
|South Korea 2 Iraq 0: Kim books sixth Asian Cup final place|
|Sturridge could return against Chelsea|
|Zinnbauer backs Drobny as Hamburg first choice|
|Drogba targeting Chelsea stay|
|Postecoglou confident Australia squad can progress|
|UEFA does not have the courage to run against me - Blatter|
|Foster: Anichebe unplayable|
|Australia v UAE: Japan´s absence a boon for Asian Cup hosts|
|Milan v Lazio: Injury-hit visitors aiming for back-to-back wins|
|Trezeguet confirms retirement|
|No ´major problems´ with Nicolas Frey´s head wound|
|Strootman injury not "serious" - Garcia|
|No Paraguay, USA for retiring Riquelme|
|Saint-Etienne did not try to play football - Blanc|
|Primeira Liga Review: Sporting move within one point of Porto|
|La Liga Review: Parejo downs Sevilla, Resino starts with a point|
|Serie A Review: Juve go seven points clear as Roma draw again|
|Ligue 1 Review: Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon make Marseille pay for slip-up|
|Burkina Faso coach puts AFCON exit down to bad luck|
|Saint-Etienne 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Ibrahimovic scores in repeat performance|
|Shenaishil optimistic despite Kasim absence|
|Walcott: Goal has been a long time coming|
|DR Congo v Tunisia: Leekens warns against complacency|
|Congo 2 Burkina Faso 1: Thievy helps send 2013 runners-up crashing out|
|Gabon 0 Equatorial Guinea 2: Balboa and Iban put hosts through|
|McCarthy and Distin on road to recovery|
|Gil has hit the ground running - Lambert|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax and Feyenoord lose ground after dour draw, Eagles secure big win|
|Wenger confirms Gabriel move is imminent|
|Eto´o presented to Sampdoria fans|
|Cape Verde v Zambia: Victory a must for 2012 winners to avoid elimination|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders|
|Mancini upbeat despite ´cruel´ late defeat|
|Pogba revelling in rich vein of form|
|Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy|
|Defour dismissed after Standard Liege banner taunt|
|Allardyce relieved with scrappy West Ham win|
|Sturridge ´happy man´ after return to Liverpool training|
|Inter 0 Torino 1: Moretti ends unbeaten run for top-four hopefuls|
|Juventus 2 Chievo 0: Pogba inspires victory as leaders march on|
|Bristol City 0 West Ham 1: Super sub Sakho sinks City|
|Hughes in talks over new Stoke deal|
|Delph signs new contract|
|Chelsea v Liverpool: Mourinho demands League Cup response|
|Football League Preview: Derby eye top two, Cambridge back to reality|
|Nani not giving up on Old Trafford career|
|Perth Glory 3 Melbourne Victory 3: Leaders stage two-goal late comeback|
|Neymar: Barca have no interest in Real results|
|Milan defender Mexes apologises for red card|
|South Korea v Iraq: Strange lead-up for Shenaishil´s men|
|Lazio´s Djordjevic thanks well-wishers ahead of ankle surgery|
|Iran´s Asian Cup appeal dismissed by AFC|
|Cech urges Chelsea to clean up FA Cup exit ´mess´|
|Henderson: Liverpool are up for the cup|
|Edimar wants ´normal´ ban for Real star Ronaldo|
|Pellegrini defends misfiring City strikers|
|Australia ready for UAE - Sainsbury|
|Blanc takes positives from past|
|Inzaghi promises ´something different´ at Milan|
|Mexes sorry for seeing red|
|La Liga Review: Wins for top three|
|Vitoria Guimaraes 2 Gil Vicente 2: Last-gasp penalty salvages point for hosts|