Barca beats Racing at the Camp Nou
Lionel Messi scored a double to lead Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win over Racing Santander on Saturday, while fellow Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain netted a hat trick in Real Madrid's 4-1 win over Real Betis.
Madrid had provisionally moved ahead of its fierce rivals, but Messi kept the defending champions top of the standings and a point ahead of Madrid with a goal in each half while Xavi Hernandez added another in Barcelona's third straight win.
Surprise pacesetter Levante can draw level with Barcelona with a victory over Malaga on Sunday.
With 196 goals for Barcelona in all competitions, Messi moved past Laszlo Kubala (194) into sole possession of second place on the club career scoring list, behind only Cesar Rodriguez (235).
Also, Valencia was held to a 1-1 draw at Mallorca, while Villarreal drew 0-0 at Getafe as both teams continue to disappoint.
Atletico Madrid plays Granada later.
As was expected against a team that had only won twice ever at Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona dominated Racing from the start, although the European champions had to cope with the early exit of defender Gerard Pique, who walked off with an injury to his right thigh.
Pique had only recently returned from a muscle injury in his left leg and Barcelona is already without new signings Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez due to muscle tears.
Andres Iniesta, himself just back from a leg injury, cued Barcelona's 11th-minute opener when he slid the ball over for Messi to shed two defenders and bring the goalkeeper to the ground with a feint before rolling home.
The Racing defense scrambled to deny Messi moments later but did not nothing to stop Xavi from charging into the area to head Pedro Rodriguez's cross into the back of the net in the 27th.
In the second half, Racing appeared more concerned with not receiving a thrashing than scoring, but Messi was well-placed to volley in a rebound of a strike by Iniesta in the 68th.
Messi has 16 goals in 12 games overall this season and leads the Spanish league with 10 goals- two more than Higuain.
Barcelona has outscored its league opponents at Camp Nou this season 21-0.
In the Spanish capital, Higuain scored his third hat trick in 14 days after trebles for Madrid against Espanyol and for Argentina against Chile.
Following an evenly matched first half, Madrid brushed Betis aside after Higuain broke through less than a minute into the second half.
Marcelo caught the Betis defense flat-footed with a long pass over the top that Cristiano Ronaldo chased down inside the area and laid on for Higuain to tap home.
Once ahead, Madrid rolled. Kaka extended the lead in the 59th with a trademark curling right-footed strike around the goalkeeper into the far side of the net.
Jorge Molina fired in a pass from strike partner Ruben Castro to give Betis a moment of hope in the 69th, but Higuain finished off a pair of assists in the 70th and 73rd from fellow Argentina international Angel Di Maria to keep Madrid perfect at home.
''I am happy, very happy for having scored and helped the team,'' said Higuain, who had lost his starting role to Karim Benzema after a back injury sidelined him for a large stretch of last season.
''A few weeks ago I wasn't playing, but I am in the same form as before, just taking advantage of the opportunities I have,'' Higuain said. ''After all the time I had to wait to play, now I am enjoying it even more.''
Elsewhere, Tomar Hemed's injury-time penalty kick salvaged a point for Mallorca against visiting Valencia in the debut of coach Joaquin Caparros.
France defender Adil Rami scored from a corner to put Valencia ahead in the 39th, but Hemed converted his third spot kick in two games to split the points in the 93rd after Mehmet Topal handled the ball in the area.
Also on Sunday, it's: Rayo Vallecano vs. Espanyol, Zaragoza vs. Real Sociedad and Sevilla vs. Sporting Gijon.
Athletic Bilbao hosts Osasuna on Monday.