(CNN) -- A late Sergio Ramos goal earned Real Madrid a 2-1 win against Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Saturday as the La Liga leaders slumped to a second consecutive El Clasico defeat.
Five days after being dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Jose Mourinho's side, the Catalan club were once again forced to play second fiddle to their archrivals.
Karim Benzema put the hosts ahead in the sixth minute, slotting home after Alvaro Morata had crossed from the left before Barca equalized 12 minutes later -- Lionel Messi collecting his 18th goal against Real Madrid and his 50th of the season.
Cristiano Ronaldo came on as a sub in the second half and livened up proceedings, but it was Sergio Ramos who scored the winner eight minutes from the end, rising highest to head home Luka Modric's corner.
Barcelona thought they should have been awarded a penalty in the final minute when, at the other end, Ramos appeared to trip Adriano but the referee didn't agree. An angry protest by Victor Valdes after the final whistle earned the goalkeeper a red card.
The result takes Real to 55 points and within one point of second-place city rivals Atletico -- who travel to Malaga on Sunday.
Despite the loss -- just their second in the league this season -- Barca are still way out ahead of on 68 points, but not in an unassailable position just yet, as the match winner Ramos pointed out.
"In the league 13 points is better than 16. We have reduced the distance and whilst it is still possible mathematically we are obliged to fight," Ramos said.
But thoughts are already turning to Tuesday's last 16 Champions League match up against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Defender Pepe believes back-to-back wins over Barcelona can inspire Real to victory in the second leg with the tie evenly poised at 1-1.
"We are very happy with the victory and it was important to win. It gives us a lot of hope for the game on Tuesday, we have to go out and try to win the game in Manchester," Pepe said.
In La Liga's other Saturday matches, Valencia played out a 2-2 draw with Levante while the game between bottom-of-the-table Deportivo La Coruna and ninth-place Rayo Vallecano ended goalless.
Athletic Bilbao move up to 14th after a 1-0 win against Osasuna.
Meanwhile in Serie A, Giampaolo Pazzini scored twice as AC Milan overran 10-man Lazio 3-0 at the San Siro on Saturday.
Lazio's chances of getting anything from the game were dealt a fatal blow when Antonio Candreva was shown a straight red after 17 minutes for a foul on Stephan El Shaarawy.
Milan proceeded to dominate and two quick-fire goals at the end of the first half -- Pazzini in the 40th minute and Kevin Prince Boateng four minutes later -- effectively killed the contest.
Pazzini, who is deputizing for the injured Mario Balotelli, scored his second of the night on the hour mark to put the game beyond the reach of the visitors.
The win extends Milan's unbeaten league run to nine games and lifts them to fourth -- two points above city rivals Inter who travel to Catania on Sunday.
Third place Lazio, meanwhile, have taken just five points from their last seven games.