Real Madrid rebounded from their midweek Champions League embarrassment by securing a 1-0 home victory over lowly Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Karim Benzema, who limped off late on, struck in the 13th minute to ensure there was no repeat of the forgettable 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow that summarily ended a run of four successive triumphs.
Marco Asensio had chances to put the result beyond doubt before Thibaut Courtois made a crucial double save in stoppage time, Santiago Solari's men returning to winning ways in time for Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final clash with Kashima Antlers.
They head to the United Arab Emirates two points shy of table-topping Barcelona, who visit Levante on Sunday, and with clean sheets in three straight LaLiga matches for the first time since September 2015.
Madrid began confidently in their bid to move on from the CSKA shock as Lucas Vazquez cut inside from the right and slipped through Benzema for the French forward's first goal in six games.
Chances came and went soon after the opener with Emiliano Velazquez heading marginally wide from a corner, before Stole Dimitrievski foiled Asensio in a one-on-one.
Rayo were fortunate to avoid additional damage before the break, Toni Kroos' left-footed drive cannoning into the post.
Dimitrievski denied Asensio for the second time five minutes after the restart while Sergio Ramos had a header ruled out for a marginal offside call as Madrid's wait for a second stretched beyond the hour.
They were never able to completely put the match to bed against their 19th-placed visitors and, after Benzema hobbled off, it was Courtois' time to shine, the goalkeeper well-placed to block both Alex Alegria's overhead kick and Velazquez's follow-up in a panicked conclusion.
What does it mean? Clear heads for Club World Cup
Madrid's mood needed a lift before the long journey to the UAE and three points on home soil will make the flight a whole lot more comfortable.
They can now concentrate solely on claiming silverware without having to worry about questions that might confront them upon returning to Spain.
Vazquez valuable in victory
On target against Valencia earlier this month, winger Vazquez made another impressive contribution here as he skilfully set up Benzema's opener, threatened to get on the scoresheet himself and was busy throughout.
Asensio out of sorts
Though undoubtedly talented, Asensio's failure to convert either of his two good chances will do nothing to quieten the critics.
The Spain international offered little else in his 70 minutes and, with just one league goal this term, it is perhaps understandable that he is beginning to feature more regularly in transfer rumours.
Key Opta Facts
- Madrid have won their last 17 LaLiga games against Rayo, their best streak against a single team in the competition.
- Benzema has scored six goals in 16 La Liga matches this season, one more than he had last term (five goals in 32 appearances).
- Madrid have scored 24 goals in 16 LaLiga games in 2018-19, their worst tally at this stage of a campaign since 1993-94 (also 24 goals).
Madrid meet Kashima in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and will hope to have a Club World Cup final to contest prior to their next LaLiga clash, which is away to Villarreal on January 3.
Rayo, meanwhile, have useful time to prepare for Levante's visit next Sunday.
24 de abril 2019
|Ortiz will not replace Miller to fight Joshua|
|United v City: De Gea, Pogba and the Red Devils´ stars in need of a ´reality check´|
|United v City: Aguero ready to shine after Old Trafford absences|
|Ferguson convinced me to take up management – Milosevic´s road to Partizan|
|United v City: Solskjaer out to correct Manchester derby record|
|United v City: Were the Red Devils too hasty to appoint Solskjaer?|
|Wheeler impresses in Mets´ win over Phillies|
|Raptors, 76ers advance as Lillard´s buzzer-beater sends Blazers through|
|Lillard´s stunning buzzer-beating three eliminates Thunder|
|Embiid: 76ers can win NBA Finals|
|Tigres UANL 0 Monterrey 1: Visitors draw first blood in Champions League final|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Cruzeiro stay perfect, Mineiro eliminated|
|Sterling reveals Van Dijk snub in favour of Kane|
|Frappart to become first female Ligue 1 referee|
|Cousins ´highly unlikely´ to return for Warriors in playoffs, says Kerr|
|Long´s Premier League record will be hard to beat – Hasenhuttl|
|Jovic to Madrid a ´real possibility´ – Eintracht director|
|NFL Draft 2019: Five overrated prospects, starting with a first-round QB|
|NFL Draft 2019: Teams with most riding on outcome|
|NFL Draft 2019: Five best first-round fits|
|Emery launches defence of Arsenal´s Mustafi|
|Valverde not bothered when Barca are crowned LaLiga champions|
|We have a chance to make change – Sterling calls for more to be done to combat racism|
|Solskjaer: Man Utd not ready to compete with City or Liverpool next season|
|Pochettino still harbours hope of Eriksen extension|
|Klopp set for Dortmund reunion in US friendly|
23 de abril 2019
|49ers kicker Gould trying to force trade|
|Saracens wing Strettle to retire|
|Sevastova serves up Stuttgart bagel to oust Ostapenko|
|Man City have ´definitely not´ been offered Pogba again, insists Guardiola|
|Lucky loser Jarry shocks struggling Zverev in Barcelona|
|Guardiola rejects Solskjaer claims over City fouls|
|Deportivo Alaves 0 Barcelona 2: Alena and Suarez put champions-elect on brink of title|
|Rams pick up Goff´s fifth-year option|
|Hamburg 1 RB Leipzig 3: Poulsen and Forsberg fire visitors into DFB-Pokal final|
|Watford 1 Southampton 1: Gray cancels out Long´s record-breaking strike|
|Tottenham 1 Brighton and Hove Albion 0: Eriksen´s late stunner gives Spurs control in top-four battl|
|Long, King and the Premier League´s fastest goalscorers|
|Playing alongside Ronaldo is a pleasure, says Dybala|
|Watson ends drought as Super Kings go top|
|Southampton´s Long scores Premier League´s fastest goal|
|Seahawks reportedly send Frank Clark to Chiefs|
|AFC Champions League Review: Giovinco strike earns 10-man Al-Hilal win|
|Messi benched for Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona|
|Alexander-Arnold happy to support United in Manchester derby|
|Hudson-Odoi to have surgery on ruptured Achilles tendon|
|NFL Draft 2019 Big Board: Murray & Bosa the top prospects|
|ATP to decide on Gimelstob future following sentencing|
|F1 Raceweek: Ferrari looking to kick-start season with SF90 updates in Baku|
|Gattuso rejects surprise Newcastle links|
|Leeds United´s Alioski to miss remainder of Championship season|
|Injured Anderson to miss clay-court season|
|Manchester City star De Bruyne out of derby as Guardiola urges caution|
|I perfectly understand his position – Guardiola supports under-fire Solskjaer|
|Emery urges Arsenal to retain belief in top-four race|
|Mahrez is going nowhere - Guardiola|
|Simeone delighted ´extraordinary´ Oblak has signed new Atletico deal|
|O´Sullivan ´struggled to stay awake´ in Crucible upset|
|O´Sullivan stunned by amateur Cahill in another early exit|
|Wolfsburg confirm Glasner as new head coach|
|Suns fire coach Kokoskov after one season|
|Iniesta named new Vissel Kobe captain|
|Retiring too early would haunt me forever - Khan|
|Burnley laugh off ´anti-football´ jibes|
|Solskjaer convinced he can turn Manchester United´s slump around|
|Halep withdraws from Stuttgart Open with hip injury|
|They will snap at your ankles and kick you - Solskjaer mindful of Man City tactics|
|Sterling says racism ´runs deep´ in football & calls for radical changes|
|Defending Favors ´draining´ for Rockets – Harden|
|Mitchell thanks Jazz team-mates after flashing Game 4 warning at Rockets|