Madrid avoids setback, beats Celta Vigo
The recent international break has left Madrid short of options at the back, with full-backs Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa facing spells on the sidelines, but they attacked from the off although Higuain's 11th-minute opener was a touch fortunate.
Ronaldo netted from the spot midway through the second half to settle matters after Mesut Ozil tumbled in the area following a rather innocuous challenge from defender Gustavo Cabral.
The win meant Madrid moved up to fourth and are now just five points behind rivals Barcelona - although Tito Vilanova's men do have a game in hand.
It was a less than thrilling performance from the hosts, who with a trip to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League next, may have had other things on their mind.
However, they have been left counting the cost of the international break after a number of their players reported back with injuries, with Higuain, Karim Benzema and Sami Khedira among those doubtful.
The former was the only one to start but he made his mark as early as the 11th minute.
After collecting a pass from Kaka on the left-wing, the Argentinian's ball into the area took a slight deflection and looped over the unfortunate Celta Vigo goalkeeper Alvarez Sergio.
It was perhaps just desserts for Jose Mourinho's side, however, as they dominated the opening stages with Celta Vigo firmly penned into their own half.
The visitors had their first sight at goal when Iago Aspas' strike from the edge of the area forced Iker Casillas to palm away.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, fresh from winning his 100th international cap in Portugal's disappointing 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in midweek, was proving to be a handful and he nearly doubled the lead but his volley from Luka Modric's delivery into the area just clipped the bar.
The former Manchester United man then cut in from the right before slamming into the side netting.
Poor finishing cost Madrid in the first half but they failed to create many meaningful opportunities after the interval until Ronaldo headed wide following Michael Essien's wonderful delivery into the area.
Minutes later, the hosts increased their lead after Ozil fell to the ground in the box, despite there seeming to be little contact from Cabral, who was booked for his troubles.
Ronaldo slammed the ball into the net, sending Sergio the wrong way in the 68th minute to all but seal victory.
Jose Callejon was introduced shortly afterwards and he nearly made an instant impact by fizzing his strike inches wide and was then only denied by the legs of Sergio following Sergio Ramos' ball over the top as Madrid finished strongly.
''We weren't ourselves in the first 10 minutes,'' Celta coach Paco Herrera said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.