Real Madrid came away with a deserved point but failed to secure the victory they needed to trim the gap to leadBarcelona when the outstanding Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo each struck twice in an attritional 2-2 draw in La Liga on Sunday.
A stuttering start by Jose Mourinho's Real side had left them eight points behind their great rivals after six matches, threatening to derail their title defence before it had even got off the ground.
While they will take comfort from preventing Barca making it seven wins out of seven this term, they may feel they let slip an opportunity in the opening league 'Clasico' of the campaign after Ronaldo gave them a 23rd-minute lead in front of almost 100 000 fans packed into an electric Nou Camp arena.
With millions more around the world watching the heavyweight clash, Messi levelled eight minutes later after a defensive lapse by Pepe and the Argentine World Player of the Year curled in a stunning free kick just after the hour to make it 2-1.
Real were level within five minutes when Mesut Ozil slid the ball through to Ronaldo and the Portuguese forward beat Victor Valdes for a second time with a powerful low strike.
Barca twice came close to a winner in a frenetic finale when substitute Martin Montoya crashed a long-range effort against the crossbar in the 89th minute and Pedro dashed on to an Andres Iniesta pass in stoppage time, only to fire wastefully wide.
"We were superior at times but it was a very even game," Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets said in an interview with Spanish television.
"Everything is the way it was but with one match less," added the Spain international.
Barca have 19 points from seven games, level with Atletico Madrid, who snatched a last-gasp 2-1 win at home to third-placed Malaga at the Calderon in Sunday's late kickoff.
Real, who have already lost twice, the same number of defeats as they suffered in the whole of last season, are fifth on 11 points.
ChiboyChuks Opinion: "When two elephants fight, the grass suffers" I think yesterday was an history made, whereby the two World Class Players had to show their talents in different style, class and also gesture... but left for me I love the way Ronaldo celebrates and love his style of play. What do you guys think, should we give it Ronaldo or Messi?