Antoine Griezmann’s classy finish five minutes from time dealt Real Madrid’s La Liga title chances a huge blow as Atletico Madrid rescued a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Pepe’s towering header early in the second half looked to have Madrid heading five points clear at the top.
However, Barcelona now have a third straight title back in their own hands after Griezmann rounded Keylor Navas to slot home at the near post.
“We know we are a strong team with an incredible mentality,” Griezmann told Spanish TV station Movistar.
“I could see my teammates had confidence, desire and the truth is we played a great game.”
Real lead Barcelona by three points with eight games left, but the two face each other at the Bernabeu on April 23.
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Barca can move top later on Saturday with victory at Malaga.
“It is a draw but we’ve lost two points. Clearly we deserved all three points today,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
“We played very well, but we lacked the second goal that would have allowed us to relax.”
Atletico had won their three previous league visits to the Bernabeu and enjoyed the brighter start as Saul Niguez was inches away from opening the scoring inside five minutes when his header from Koke’s cross flew just wide.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick separated the sides in a 3-0 Real win earlier this season and the World Player of the Year was first to threaten for the hosts as his near post drive was beaten away by Jan Oblak.
Real took control of the game as the first half wore on and only two stunning stops prevented Zinedine Zidane’s men from taking a half-time lead.
Firstly, Oblak tipped over Karim Benzema’s effort after a neat one-two with Ronaldo had freed the Frenchman inside the box.
Moments later Ronaldo couldn’t believe his eyes when his fierce goal-bound effort was turned to safety by Stefan Savic’s incredible headed clearance from under his own crossbar.
Griezmann was nearly gifted the opener just before half-time as he intercepted Sergio Ramos’s wayward cross field pass and bore down on goal.
But Griezmann narrowed his own angle by verging left onto his favoured foot and his low effort was turned behind by Keylor Navas.
Real started the second half with intent as Ronaldo headed just wide before Oblak had to rush from his goal to block Benzema’s volley from point-blank range.
The European champions finally made the breakthrough seven minutes into the second period when Pepe rose highest in a crowded penalty area from Toni Kroos’s free-kick to power a header into the far corner.
However, Atletico responded to falling behind and should have been level on the hour mark when Yannick Carrasco played in Fernando Torres clear on goal.
The former Spanish international failed to finish, though, as he fired straight at the onrushing Navas.
Navas has faced a barrage of criticism this season, but he made another smart stop to deny Griezmann levelling with an outrageous overhead kick attempt.
The French international wasn’t to be denied from an excellent through ball from Angel Correa with five minutes remaining, however, as he coolly fired past the advancing Navas at the near post for his 23rd goal of the season.
* Agence France-Presse
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