La Liga Wrap: Good day for both Catalan clubs
A late brace from Lionel Messi wrapped up Barcelona's 5-0 triumph over lowly Cordoba as Luis Enrique's men scored three times from the 80th minute onwards, while in Madrid, captain Sergio Garcia inspired Espanyol to a 3-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano.
Espanyol left it late, however, with Lucas Vazquez heading the visitors ahead with 14 minutes remaining from Garcia's cross, while the 31-year-old skipper wrapped up the win with his second goal with almost the last kick of the game.
The win saw Espanyol move into the top half of the La Liga table with 20 points, while Rayo suffered their third straight loss in the league to remain 12th on 17.
Garcia opened the scoring in the ninth minute, converting from the edge of the area after Vallecano goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez dropped a high ball after falling over by a team-mate, but the hosts equalised just before half-time, Leo Baptistao volleying Alberto Bueno's flicked header into the net.
Espanyol had just 26 per cent possession for the match but the visitors' counter-attacking philosophy would pay off late in the game with Vazquez striking in the 76th minute, getting on the end of Garcia's in-swinging cross from the left to nod home at the back post.
Sergio's side were reduced to 10 men shortly after when Christian Stuani received a second yellow card in the space of nine minutes but Garcia ensured victory in the 95th minute, scoring on the break.
Espanyol's third win in four matches took them to 10th in the table.
In Barcelona, the home side moved within a point of leaders Real Madrid after destroying Cordoba.
Pedro gave Barcelona the lead in just the second minute but Luis Enrique's side had to wait until seven minutes after the break to double their advantage, as Luis Suarez scored.
Gerard Pique made it 3-0 in the 80th minute, while Messi completed the five-goal triumph in the 82nd and 91st minutes.
Barcelona's unbeaten run in La Liga is now at six games, while they have a six-point gap on reigning champions Atletico Madrid, who are third and play on Sunday.
Valencia moved within a point of Atletico with a 1-0 triumph at Eibar, while in the other match a stoppage-time penalty from Andreas Ivanschitz saw Levante draw 1-1 at home with Real Sociedad.