Karim Benzema scored twice in the final seven minutes to earn Real Madrid a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid.
The late strikes by the Ballon d’Or winner lift Madrid top of La Liga, a point clear of Barcelona.
Benzema, who missed the World Cup through injury, put Real ahead with an 83rd-minute penalty after a highly disputed handball decision.
He wrapped up the win six minutes later with a calm finish from Eduardo Camavinga’s pass.
This was Real’s first game since the World Cup, with losing French finalists Aurelien Tchouameni and Camavinga on the bench.
Luka Modric started however after leading Croatia to third place as was Benzema, the 35-year-old leading the line after missing out on Qatar having suffered a thigh injury the day before the start of the tournament.
Both teams had several chances to open the scoring, but superb goalkeeping from Valladolid’s Jordi Masip and Real’s Thibaut Courtois kept the game goalless until the final few minutes.
Real were awarded a penalty when Javi Sanchez was judged to have handled the ball. The decision sent the home team into a frenzy and striker Sergio Leon was sent off for dissent.
Benzema shrugged off the distraction and delay, and converted the penalty with ease.
Then, in the 89th minute, Benzema doubled the visitors’ lead after being left unmarked to fire a well-placed shot home from just inside the box .
Real retake the league lead from Barcelona, who have a game in hand and host Espanyol on Saturday.