Madrid: Barcelona restored their lead at the top of La Liga to five points as Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi struck in the final 20 minutes to edge out 10-man Villarreal 2-0 on Sunday.
Daniel Raba's red card on the hour mark for a wild lunge on Sergio Busquets handed Barca the initiative.
And their pressure told when Suarez rounded off a fine team move before Messi blasted home a second to get the Catalans back to winning ways after successive draws with Valencia and Celta Vigo in La Liga.
Valencia remain Barca's closest challengers five points back, but Atletico Madrid also maintained their title charge with a 1-0 win at Real Betis to stay six points off the top.
Real Madrid are eight points back in fourth and Barca will have the chance to go into El Clasico away at Real in two weeks' time with an 11-point lead over their rivals.
Barca host Deportivo la Coruna next weekend, whilst Madrid are in action at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
Gerard Pique nearly gave Barca the perfect start at the Ceramic Stadium, where they have struggled in recent seasons, as his header came back off the crossbar from Messi's corner just four minutes in.
However, Barca dominance of possession was largely stale before the break as Villarreal posed the greater threat on the counter-attack.
Nicola Sansone had the hosts' best effort that forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into a stunning one-handed stop high to his left.
Messi orchestrated the visitors' attacking threat after the break as he constantly freed Jordi Alba down Barca's left.