Match ends, Barcelona 6, Athletic Club 0.
Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona kept up their title push by thrashing 10-man Athletic Bilbao.
The visitors had goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz sent off early on for bringing down the Uruguay forward, with Lionel Messi converting the penalty.
Neymar chipped a second before half-time, with Suarez and Ivan Rakitic making it 4-0 after the break.
Suarez slotted in Arda Turan's pass, then headed the sixth to leave Barca two points behind Atletico Madrid.
Suarez leads stylish response
Barcelona's bid to retain their La Liga title stumbled during December and early January with a run of three draws in four matches either side of the Christmas break.
With leaders Atletico Madrid securing a fourth successive victory by beating Las Palmas 3-0 earlier on Sunday, Luis Enrique's side knew at kick-off that they could not regain top spot - and so it was all about a statement of intent.
Their job was made significantly easier by the horrendous defensive mix-up that allowed Suarez to nip in behind centre-back Xabier Etxeita and win the penalty that Messi converted.
Barcelona, though, took advantage of that early break to swat Athletic aside with some sumptuous football.
Messi, named the Ballon d'Or winner on Monday, only played for the first 45 minutes before being substituted amid concerns that he had suffered a minor muscle strain.
Suarez grabbed the opportunity to take centre stage, and become the leading scorer in Europe's top five leagues, with 29 goals in 29 games in all competitions this season - but he also got a whack in the face for his troubles.
Television pictures showed Etxeita glancing over towards Suarez before catching him with a forearm, well away from the ball. The defender may face retrospective action.
Push for the Pichichi
The competition for the Pichichi - the Spanish golden boot - intensified on Sunday, with all four of the leading contenders scoring.
After Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema had both taken their La Liga season totals to 16 by scoring twice each in Real Madrid's 5-1 win over Sporting Gijon, the pressure was on Neymar and Suarez to keep pace.
Both players responded positively, with Suarez providing three excellent second-half finishes to move to the top of the league goal charts on 18.
Suarez capitalised on Etxeita's hesitation to win the penalty from which Messi gave Barca the lead, before playing in Neymar to score his 16th La Liga goal of the season with a perfectly judged chip.
The Brazil forward returned the compliment by playing Suarez through to slide in a third goal early in the second half, and then showed wonderful footwork as he darted to the byeline and provided a low cut-back for Rakitic to make it four.
Suarez added a fifth with a stylish finish, controlling Arda's diagonal pass before nudging a shot beyond the goalkeeper, and secured the match ball with a header from Sergio Busquets' cross.
Muniain pays the penalty
If it was a night to forget for Athletic keeper Iraizoz, spare a thought too for his team-mate Iker Muniain.
The 23-year-old forward was making his first league start since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage last April, and was keen to make an impact. Instead, his night was cut short through no fault of his own.
He had one opportunity to catch the eye, when he intercepted Gerard Pique's sloppy back pass and got the better of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to set up Javier Eraso, who lifted the chance over.
Within seconds of that miss, Iraizoz had been sent off - and it was a visibly disappointed Muniain who was substituted to allow replacement goalkeeper Iago Herrerin to face Messi's penalty.
Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona meet again on Wednesday, this time at the San Memes Stadium, in the first leg of their Copa Del Rey quarter-final. After that comes a return to league action, with Barca travelling to Malaga next Saturday before Athletic host Eibar on Sunday.
- 22Vidal Parreu
- 3PiquéBooked at 87mins
- 14MascheranoBooked at 51mins
- 18AlbaSubstituted forBartraat 69'minutes
- 4RakiticSubstituted forRoberto Carnicerat 63'minutes
- 10MessiSubstituted forTuranat 45'minutes
- 1ter Stegen
- 6Alves da Silva
- 17El Haddadi
- 20Roberto Carnicer
- 1Iraizoz MorenoBooked at 4mins
- 2Bóveda Altube
- 16Etxeita Gorritxategi
- 24Balenziaga Oruesagasti
- 6San José
- 7Etxebarria UrkiagaSubstituted forIturraspe Derteanoat 62'minutes
- 10De Marcos AranaBooked at 69mins
- 5Eraso GoñiBooked at 85mins
- 19Muniain GoñiSubstituted forHerrerín Buisánat 6'minutes
- 15WilliamsSubstituted forMerino Zuloagaat 56'minutes
- 8Iturraspe Derteano
- 13Herrerín Buisán
- 17Rico Moreno
- 18Gurpegi Nausia
- 25Merino Zuloaga
- 30Lekue Martínez
- Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Barcelona 6, Athletic Club 0.
Attempt saved. Iturraspe (Athletic Club) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Gerard Piqué (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Gerard Piqué (Barcelona).
Eraso (Athletic Club) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Eraso (Athletic Club) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Javier Mascherano (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Eraso (Athletic Club).
Attempt saved. Sabin (Athletic Club) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Goal! Barcelona 6, Athletic Club 0. Luis Suárez (Barcelona) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Sergio Busquets with a cross.
Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Iago Herrerín.
Attempt missed. Neymar (Barcelona) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.
Neymar (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Eneko Bóveda (Athletic Club).
Sergi Roberto (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by San José (Athletic Club).
Foul by Sergio Busquets (Barcelona).
Eraso (Athletic Club) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. De Marcos (Athletic Club) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right following a set piece situation.