Barcelona flushed the demoralizing Real Madrid defeat out of their system on Saturday as goals from Rafael Marquez and Samuel Eto'o clinched a 2-0 win at Real Mallorca.
The win closed the gap on Real Madrid at the top to four points but the defending champions had a game in hand and faced Real Zaragoza yesterday.
Barcelona were desperate for the three points after losing El Classico to Real on Dec. 23 and they started this year on a positive note with only their third away win of the season.
Mexican defender Marquez broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half before Cameroon striker Eto'o -- soon to depart for the African Cup of Nations -- wrapped up the points in the final minute.
"There has been a lot of criticism coming our way and you have to work hard and show a positive reaction which we have done today," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said.
"We showed a great attitude in the face of this criticism. We tried to follow our philosophy of playing good attacking football but at this stage of the season results are what count," he said. "The circumstances were difficult trying to get the rhythm back after a break but it was a complicated game that we managed to come through."
It was a good night for Catalan clubs with Espanyol taking a giant stride towards the Champions League courtesy of a 3-0 victory over rivals Villarreal.
Espanyol stay third but are now four points ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal.
Raul Tamudo went into double figures for the season with a brace after eight and 36 minutes with Valdo adding another in a first-half goal blitz.
Espanyol stay a point behind their illustrious neighbors Barca who omitted Deco and Thierry Henry from the starting line-up with Iceland's Eidur Gudjohnsen starting in midfield.
Mexican prodigy Giovani dos Santos started in attack with Ronaldinho still out injured.
Mallorca made the early running and they almost took an early lead when Daniel Guiza whistled a shot centimeters past the post on eight minutes.
For all their eye-pleasing passing Barcelona looked impotent and a dragged shot from Andres Iniesta was their best effort in the opening half hour.
Fellow Spanish international Xavi then went close but his shot flashed over the bar.
Marquez provided the breakthrough rising unmarked to head home a corner on 54 minutes.
Substitute Henry thought he had netted in the final quarter hour but his effort was ruled out for offside but Eto'o struck in the dying seconds to ease the tension.