Real Madrid averted a crisis in the best possible way on Saturday by beating Barcelona 3-1 in the first empty clasico and landing an early blow in La Liga's title race.
Both sides had suffered shock defeats last weekend, with Zinedine Zidane's side then beaten 3-2 at home by Shakhtar Donetsk in their Champions League opener on Wednesday night.
Los Blancos went ahead through Federico Valverde after just five minutes, only for 17-year-old Ansu Fati to quickly level the scores.
Sergio Ramos put Real Madrid back in front from the penalty spot on 63 minutes, which was awarded after the referee reviewed a shirt pull on the pitchside monitor, before substitute Luka Modric added a third in stoppage time.
"They are only three points but we have to enjoy them, especially after everything that has been said about the squad," said Zidane after the match.
"After the criticism we received, we had to stay calm and united. Play when we had to play, and play the way we did today.
"That celebration together after Modric's goal shows the unity of this group. We have to pull this game forward, as a team, and that's what we did. I'm proud of my team, as always."
“It wasn’t an easy week for us,” admitted Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “We played games very quickly after coming back from the international break and we weren’t at our best against Cadiz and Shakhtar.
"The second half against Shakhtar showed we wanted to play well here today and we’re very happy with the result in this big game. We did what the the manager wanted us to do.
"People were doubting us but we didn’t doubt ourselves, we were always with the manager.
"When you wear this badge you have to give everything in the 90 minutes, and we really put in a big effort today and deserved to get the win."
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman, taking charge of his first clasico, made three changes as fit-again Jordi Alba returned while 17-year-old midfielder Pedri also come in.
Real – showing five changes from the team which lost in Europe on Wednesday night as captain Ramos returned from injury – swept into the lead after just five minutes when Karim Benzema played in Valverde, who drove the ball into the far corner.
Barcelona, though, were soon level in the eighth minute as Alba got away down the left and pulled the ball back across for teenager Fati to slot home from six yards – breaking the record as the youngest clasico goalscorer.
On 24 minutes, Lionel Messi brushed off Ramos and drove a low strike towards the near post, which Courtois pushed away before a swift Real Madrid counter saw Benzema fire straight at Barcelona keeper Neto.
At the start of the second half, Ramos headed wide from a corner before 17-year-old Fati almost grabbed another goal after being picked out by Messi, but dragged his shot wide after cutting back inside.
Los Blancos went back in front after 63 minutes.
Ramos tumbled following a tug by Clement Lenglet, and the referee awarded a penalty having reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor. The Real Madrid captain made no mistake from the spot.
"Maybe one day you can explain how VAR works here in Spain," said Koeman. "We've had five games in the league and VAR has only intervened against Barca."
Koeman sent on Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Francisco Trincao for the closing stages as he attempted to drag his team level.
Neto saved from Vinicius Junior as Real pushed for a third, before at the other end Dembele sent a chip over the crossbar.
Real Madrid sealed victory when substitute Modric finished off from close range after Neto had denied Vinicius Junior again.
Zidane's men move two points clear of Real Sociedad, while Barcelona are 10th following a second straight La Liga defeat.
The final word went Ramos. "You always have bad spells in a season and hopefully this one only lasted a week," said the Real captain. "To win in the home of your oldest rivals is always satisfying."