Francisco "Isco" Alarcon scored his second goal of the match in the 90th minute to salvage a 3-2 win for Real Madrid at Sporting Gijon on Saturday, keeping it on course for its first Spanish league title in five years.
Madrid was on the verge of a second consecutive draw when the Spain midfielder drilled a right-footed shot from just outside the area between goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar and his post.
Isco's outstanding performance saved Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane from paying a heavy price for resting almost all his first-choice players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
The hard-fought win at the relegation-threatened Sporting increased Madrid's lead to six points over Barcelona, before the defending champions host Real Sociedad later.
Madrid, which has a game in hand, will host Barcelona next round in a "clasico" match that will go a long way to determining the league champion.
Before that game, both rivals will play the return legs of their Champions League quarterfinals. Madrid welcomes Bayern Munich on Tuesday leading the tie 2-1, while Barcelona must overturn a 3-0 first-leg defeat to Juventus on Wednesday.
Isco's first goal was a superb solo effort in the 17th to cancel out Duje Cop's opener for Sporting. Isco avoided three defenders inside a crowded area before lashing a left-footed strike just inside the top corner of the goal frame.
Sporting went back ahead through a header by Mikel Vesga, who had already set up Cop's opener.
But Alvaro Morata headed Madrid level again in the 59th, and the pacesetters kept pushing until Isco scored the winner.