Gareth Bale ended a run of 802 minutes without a goal in La Liga as Real Madrid won 1-0 at bottom side Huesca on Sunday to climb back to within five points of leaders Barcelona.
The Welshman struck his first goal in the league since the start of September to lift Real to a fourth win in five matches and move the European champions up to fourth place.
“He (Bale) and the rest of the team were all fantastic. He scored a great goal and it was enough to get the win,” said Real coach Santiago Solari.
“His goal and the general character of the team were crucial in taking all three points.”
“It wasn’t a game to remember, but if you want to win La Liga, you have to win these matches,” the Argentine added.
Bale put a halt to his longest spell without scoring in the league since joining Real as he expertly cushioned in a volley from an arcing cross by Alvaro Odriozola on eight minutes.
Huesca winger Ezequiel Avila forced a brilliant stop from Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium international punching the ball to safety midway through the first half.
Bale nearly added to his haul on 25 minutes when his fierce drive from the edge of the area was tipped over by a scrambling Aleksandar Jovanovic.
Gonzalo Melero should have levelled for Huesca right after the break only to nod wide of the goal despite having the whole target at which to aim.
A swerving David Ferreiro shot drew another smart save from Courtois as Real withstood a spirited fightback from the hosts, but Bale continued to threaten and forced two further saves from Jovanovic.
Courtois turned over a late Moi Gomez free-kick and Huesca, who slumped to a 10th defeat in 15 games this season, were denied a point when Dani Carvajal headed off the line from Christian Rivera.
Elsewhere, Borja Mayoral salvaged a point for Levante with a stoppage-time equaliser in a thrilling 4-4 draw away to Eibar.
Eibar, who beat Madrid 3-0 in their last home game, led 4-2 with 15 minutes to play after a quick-fire brace by Charles added to goals from Sergi Enrich and Gonzalo Escalante.
But Levante snatched a draw as Tono halved the deficit before Mayoral struck at the death.
Real Betis shot up to seventh with a 2-0 home win over second-bottom Rayo Vallecano following goals by on-loan Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Giovani Lo Celso and Brazilian centre-back Sidnei.
Real Valladolid won for the first time in six games as Toni Suarez and Antonito found the net in a 2-1 victory at Real Sociedad.