Their hope lasted two minutes and nineteen seconds. Just when Barcelona thought there was a chance they might rescue the La Liga title, just as this stadium erupted into noise, just as the faith that had deserted them flooded back, Cristiano Ronaldo tore it all out of their hands again. Alexis Sánchez had given Barcelona a goal and a lifeline with an equaliser midway through the second half, levelling the scores after Sami Khedira had put Madrid ahead in the first half. But 139 seconds later Ronaldo brilliantly stepped around Víctor Valdés to make the return of the title from the Camp Nou to the Bernabéu all but certain.
Pep Guardiola had insisted before this latest clásico that the equation was simple: lose or draw and Real Madrid would be league champions. The trophy is now on its way from Catalonia to Castille. Seven points separate these sides with only four matches remaining. There could yet be a final showdown should they both make it to the Champions League final in Munich, but Madrid were the victors here. Madrid and José Mourinho: this should be the Special One's seventh league title, spread across four different countries.
Madrid's 2-1 win almost certainly puts an end to the Barcelona's title pursuit. Trailing by 10 points only a few weeks ago, Barça, had cut the lead to four. This was the game, they said, in which it would be down to one. If that was presumptuous, there was logic to it: under Mourinho Madrid had won only one of 10 clásicos.