Barcelona restored their five-point lead atop the Spanish Liga Sunday with a late 2-1 home defeat of fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao.
Barca needed a goal 12 minutes from time from FIFA World Player Lionel Messi to break the resistance of Bilbao, for whom Andoni Iraola had equalised after David Villa had given Barca an early lead.
Messi has overtaken Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scorers' chart with 25 goals to 24.
As humble as ever, Messi said: 'The important thing is that we won and not the fact that I scored. They made things difficult for us from start to finish.'
Messi and company now have a record-breaking 65 points from 24 games, five more than second-placed Real, who beat lowly Levante 2-0 at home Saturday.
Barca can now enjoy a week's rest without any midweek match or national team call-up, for the first time this season. They were desperate to win after Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League defeat away to Arsenal - and after last Saturday's 1-1 draw in Gijon.
It seemed like it would be yet another stroll in the park for Barca - as most of their matches have been this season - when Villa made it 1-0 after just four minutes by turning in a perfect centre from right-back Dani Alves.
Villa and Messi came close to increasing Barca's lead several times in the first half. But five minutes into the second half Iraola made it 1-1 from the penalty spot, after Sergio Busquets had clumsily pulled down Bilbao's star striker Fernando Llorente.
From then on, the hosts lay siege to the Bilbao goal. Barca were furious not to be given a clear penalty when Messi was brought down by Javi Martinez.
But the little Argentine would soon be celebrating his winning goal. Twelve minutes from time Xavi released the tireless Alves down the right and Messi turned in Alves' near-post cross with his right foot.