Gareth Bale struck four times – doubling his tally for the season – as Real Madrid beat nine-man Rayo Vallecano 10-2 at the Bernabeu.
The pressure appeared to be building on boss Rafael Benitez early on when the hosts trailed 2-1 against a side sitting in the relegation zone.
But Roman Triguero and Raul Baena were both dismissed for Rayo in the opening half hour, after which Real scored at will to move within two points of Barcelona in the Primera Division.
Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick while Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace and Danilo added one, but Real missed out on their record victory – which remains an 11-1 victory over Barcelona in the 1940s.
The scoring started early as right-back Danilo beat the offside trap to collect Bale’s pass and bag his second goal since joining in the summer.
But the game was turned upside down within the next nine minutes, first Antonio Amaya heading in from a corner before Jozabed stole a march on Danilo to nod in from close range.
The home fans at the Bernabeu – which had many empty seats on display – were incensed but Benitez was offered a lifeline in the 15th minute as Tito was shown a straight red card for a two-footed tackle on Toni Kroos.
Real took advantage as Bale headed in his first of the afternoon after getting on the end of Danilo’s 25th-minute cross and soon after Rayo were another man down.
Baena – already booked for a foul on Kroos – was adjudged to have pulled Sergio Ramos’ shirt in the area and was dismissed, before Ronaldo swept home from the spot.
With two extra men the white shirts swarmed forward on numerous occasions and it was a simple question of how many they were going to score.
It was four at the break, with Bale adding his second in the 41st minute after running unchallenged from 35 yards out before firing past goalkeeper Yoel.
Benzema got in on the act early in the second half when James Rodriguez played him in down the left after a lovely passing move, with the French striker slotting into the far corner.
Ronaldo, denied by a fine save from Yoel minutes after Benzema’s goal, eventually added his second in the 54th minute when he headed in completely unmarked from Rodriguez’s cross.
Bale then took centre stage, completing his second Primera Division hat-trick when tapping in from Ronaldo’s right-wing cross before rolling in a fourth into an empty net when his attempted square-ball to Ronaldo bounced back to him off Quini’s leg and wrong-footed Yoel.
The Wales international departed to a warm reception from the fans who did make it to the game – but Real still did not ease up the pressure on Rayo.
Ronaldo went close on a couple of occasions as he chased a hat-trick, but it was Benzema who scored the final two goals of the game to complete a treble of his own.
First he was picked out in the area by a lovely ball from Luka Modric before tucking a shot beyond Yoel into the bottom left corner in the 80th minute, before Mateo Kovacic teed him up for another in the final minute.