(CNN) -- Real Madrid made sure the lights didn't go out on its title challenge as it sparked into life with a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Karim Benzema's 13th minute strike lit the fuse for Real before Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half penalty sealed the win.
Real's margin of victory could have and should have been greater, but Ronaldo somehow contrived to miss from six-yards with the goal at his mercy.
Rayo had their chances, particularly in the first-half through Andrija Delibasic and Mikel Labaka, but they were unable to find a way past the Real defence.
Rayo's misery was compounded in stoppage time when Jose Manuel Casado was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.
Ronaldo's strike means he has now scored 152 goals in 152 appearances for the club in total and 41 in 40 matches for Real in 2012.
With just one league victory to its name before kick off, Real could not afford to slip any further behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
The Catalan side sat 11 points clear of Real after winning all five of their league games following its weekend victory over Granada.
But Real moved up to seventh and to within eight points of Tito Vilanova's side following this win.
After the drama of Sunday night where the game was postponed amid a suspected act of sabotage on the power supply at Estadio de Vallecas, Real wasted little time in asserting its authority.
Angel Di Maria latched onto Ronaldo's pass on the left before crossing for Benzema to fire home from close-range.
New signing Luka Modric should have doubled Real's lead 11 minutes later but he shot straight at the goalkeeper after finding space inside the penalty area.
While Real looked dangerous in attack, it remained suspect in defense and only a wonderful save by Iker Casillas denied Delibasic an equaliser.
The Rayo striker looked certain to score from close-range only for Casillas to block and Mikel Labaka's follow-up to be cleared off the line.
The visitors continued to dominate after the break and Benzema wrongly had goal ruled out after the referee inexplicably brought play back for a foul to Real instead of playing the advantage.
That decision could have proved costly for Mourinho's men, but Jose Carlos' strike sailed inches over the crossbar with Casillas beaten.
Real finally got the second goal it had been craving 20 minutes from time when Jordi Amrat handled inside the penalty area and Ronaldo stroked home from the spot.
The Portugal star should have wrapped the game up late on after being teed up by Gonzalo Higuain, but he somehow managed to hit the post with the open goal gaping.
There was still time for Casado to see red for Rayo as the home side's frustration boiled over following a difficult night.
Elsewhere, Sevilla claimed a 2-0 victory away at Deportivo La Coruna.
Alvaro Negredo and Ivan Rakitic scored in the second-half to help Sevilla extend their unbeaten run to five games in the league and move to within four points of the leaders.