Franck Kessie’s injury-time goal marked a number of key moments in the history of this footballing giant; a 100th Clasico victory, a 3,000th LaLiga goal and, perhaps most importantly, now a 12-point advantage over their rivals with as many games to play in the title race.
That Barcelona will probably go on to reclaim the league crown, having leapt off the canvas from a period of off-field turmoil and transition that shows little sign of truly ending, will taste every bit as sweet for the Catalans as it will be bitter for Los Blancos.
Indeed, given the backdrop to this derby that led to Real president Florentino Perez snubbing an appearance at the Camp Nou amid their Negreira Case allegations, there was a certain degree of irony over the circumstances of their winner.
Marco Asensio thought he had made himself the hero ten minutes earlier, poaching a late goal to put Madrid 2-1 up despite a rough performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s men - only for VAR to (justifiably) chalk it off for offside.
Real Madrid had led against the run of play after nine minutes when Vinicius Jr was fed by Eduardo Camavinga to dig out a cross from the byline, which diverted into the net via the unbeknownst head of Ronald Araujo and the inside of the post.
It was a jarring moment for Barcelona as they peppered Thibaut Courtois’ goal with efforts, Raphinha and Andreas Christensen coming closest to a leveller with the Dane flashing an unmarked header across goal after 24 minutes.
The possession statistics were even but Real’s moments on the ball acted as mere interludes to the pendulum swinging against them in this game.
For every burst into the box that Madrid mustered, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to claim with ease, the hosts put together multiple dangerous moments - and finally had their reward as half time beckoned.
Raphinha’s dreadful air kick failed to kill Barcelona’s attack and the recycled ball in led to an almightly goalmouth scramble, eventually punctured by Sergi Roberto’s powerful effort into the corner of Courtois’ goal.
Madrid continued to struggle to assert themselves after the break. Vinicius aside, they looked leggy and struggled to keep pace with the flying winger, who lacked support from the conservative, lopsided setup that has, to be fair, provided ample success for Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu.
Robert Lewandowski should have put Barcelona in front on the hour mark as he went for the acrobatic finish when unmarked at the far post, skewing his effort over the bar.
FRANCK KESSIÉ! 👏🇨🇮
It's a first LaLiga goal for the Ivorian and what a time to get it 🔵🔴
The Spotify Camp Nou is rocking as the midfielder finds the net against Real Madrid 🔥#ElClásico pic.twitter.com/sjS99jatNJ
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) March 19, 2023
The final 20 minutes turned into a scrappy, open affair that suited Real better. Dani Carvajal was given license to roam forward and set up the offside Asensio for a finish which initially appeared to have returned Los Blancos to the title picture.
Instead, it is Barcelona destined for the trophy after Alejandro Balde broke down the left as stoppage time began to find Kessie at the back post, the Ivorian slotting home his first LaLiga goal - and inserting himself into the annuls of Clasico history.