Real Madrid have now moved two points clear at the top of La Liga after securing the maximum three points away in Barcelona with Espanyol.
The lone goal came after Karim Benzema produced an audacious back-heeled assist for Casemiro to score, making Madrid capitalise on Barcelona’s slip-up a day earlier.
Brazilian midfielder Casemiro slid to the ground to guide the ball home on the stroke of halftime after being played in by a stroke of genius from Benzema, who dragged the ball through the legs of his marker Bernardo Espinosa to find his teammate.
Real’s players embraced each other when the final whistle arrived to signal a fifth consecutive victory which took them top on 71 points after 32 games.
Barca, who were held to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo on Saturday, are second on 69.
Casemiro, voted Man of the Match, was Real’s most dangerous player and nearly opened the scoring early on with a wild shot from his own half which forced Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez to scramble back towards his line and push the ball away.
Casemiro then somehow missed the target with a header when he appeared unmarked from close range, but he soon made amends thanks to the quick-thinking of Benzema.
“It was a nice assist but the goal was more important, Casemiro did well and got us three important points after a very difficult game,” said Benzema.