Gonzalo Higuain scored late for Real Madrid to edge Espanyol 4-3 and move atop the Spanish league on Saturday for 24 hours at least.
Madrid rallied after suffering a scare in the first half when Espanyol striker Walter Pandiani scored three goals in a 3-1 lead.
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored Madrid's first goal with his 21st of the season, and Raul Gonzalez and substitute Jose Antonio Reyes scored after the interval in Madrid's fifth straight victory at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
"I'm happy because I liked the character of my team, the will they showed to fight back. Today's was a real feat because we were playing a very good team," coach Fabio Capello told news agency Efe.
Espanyol's defeat came four days before it faces Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final in Glasgow, Scotland.
In Saturday's late game, Sevilla maintained its title bid by beating Recreativo Huelva 2-1. Midfielder Enzo Maresca shot the first goal in the 13th minute, with striker Luis Fabiano converting an 81st-minute penalty.
FC Barcelona could reclaim top spot if they beat Real Betis yesterday. Madrid, aiming to end a four-year drought without a major trophy, have 66 points. Barcelona had 65 ahead of yesterday's match, one more than Sevilla.
Madrid and Sevilla have four games to play, while Barcelona have five.
Madrid lacked suspended David Beckham, who picked up his 10th yellow card of the season in last weekend's win over Sevilla and has just four games left before he joins the Los Angeles Galaxy in August.
Robinho also missed the match through suspension, while Capello recalled left back Roberto Carlos.
Before Saturday's game, Madrid's honorary president Alfredo Di Stefano presented defender Fabio Cannavaro with his awards for world and European player of the year.