Barcelona recovered from 1-0 down to defeat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Wednesday and close to within six points of the LaLiga summit.
Willian Jose put the visitors in front at Camp Nou against the run of play to give them hope of ending an eight-match run without a league win over the Catalans.
A fine strike from Jordi Alba restored parity before Frenkie De Jong prodded in what proved to be the winner before half-time as Barca secured a result that will go some way towards easing pressure on head coach Ronald Koeman.
The loss was only Sociedad’s second in the league this season and ensured they missed out on leapfrogging Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.
Barca were in control of the opening 25 minutes but failed to test Alex Remiro in the visiting goal from any of their first six shots.
They found themselves behind when Sociedad scored with their first effort on target of the match, Willian Jose converting Portu’s cut-back following a corner.
Barca levelled in fine style just four minutes later, Alba pouncing on a loose ball and firing high past Remiro with his right foot.
Antoine Griezmann danced his way past the defence and the goalkeeper only to see the ball cannon back off the bar, and Martin Braithwaite fired over from Pedri’s pass.
The pressure told before the break, Alba’s low cross deflecting kindly for De Jong to finish, with VAR overturning the offside decision.
La Real started the second half much stronger but were lucky not to fall 3-1 down, Griezmann somehow turning the ball away from goal after sliding in to meet Alba’s cross.
Alexander Isak had a great chance to level when bearing down on goal but the covering Pedri made a crucial tackle before colliding with the goal post for good measure, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen did brilliantly to deny the striker after palming a shot into his path late on.
What does it mean? Barca breathe life into title hopes
Barca have now equalled their longest winning run at home to Sociedad in LaLiga, this being their 23rd consecutive victory at Camp Nou.
The result also lifts them to within six points of leaders Atletico, La Real and Real Madrid, as this title race continues to look an enthralling one.
Koeman will likely be most pleased with the manner of his side’s victory, though, given this was one of their best performances of the season.
This was a throwback to Jordi Alba at his best, the left-back scoring a brilliant goal, setting up De Jong for his and giving Griezmann what looked to be the easiest of finishes.
Only Messi (86 and 59) had more touches and completed passes than Alba (85 and 52), who created three opportunities from crosses and regained possession eight times.
Best-braid plans go to waste for Griezmann
Griezmann had some good moments in attack and was valuable covering at the back for Barca, clearing one promising free-kick from danger.
Fortune deserted him in front of goal, though. He hit the bar after a fine run and then implausibly failed to score with the goal gaping, his new hairdo apparently not bringing him any better luck.
Key Opta Facts
– Barcelona have won their last four home LaLiga games, their best run under Ronald Koeman, after winning only two of their previous six at Camp Nou in the competition (D2 L2).
– Messi has claimed his 300th victory at Camp Nou in all competitions: 211 in LaLiga, 53 in Champions League, 30 in Copa del Rey and 6 in UEFA Super Cup.
– Barca are the first team to have scored twice in the same game against Real Sociedad this season in LaLiga.
– De Jong has been involved in two goals in his last two LaLiga appearances (1 goal and 1 assist), the same as in his previous 35 matches in the competition (1 goal and 1 assist).
Barca host Valencia on Saturday, with Sociedad heading to Levante.
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