Lionel Messi Barcelona
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid in the El Clasico, 23 March. Reuters

This El Clasico was not turgid or cagey, with both teams wary of their opponents, sizing them up, and pouncing only when an opportunity is gifted to them. This El Clasico was open, with plenty of goals, controversy, of course there was controversy -- three penalties and a red card worth -- and of course about one man - a gifted little Argentine - coming to the fore like only he can under immense pressure to put his team right back in the La Liga title race.

Lionel Messi grabbed the headlines, scoring a hat-trick, albeit two of those goals coming from the penalty spot, to not only go top of the charts in El Clasico goalscorers list, but also to give Barcelona a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Real Madrid.

The three points put Barcelona right back in the title race, with now only one point separating them from the two Madrid teams - Real and Atletico, who went to the top of the table courtesy a 2-0 victory over Real Betis.

The serial red card man Sergio Ramos felt that colour drawn towards him yet again, as the Real defender was given his marching orders in the second half by referee Alberto Mallenco, a decision which turned the match in Barca's favour.

Before all that drama, though, there was some wonderful football being played with Andres Iniesta opening the scoring in, off a nice through ball from Messi, smashing the ball into the top corner to give Barca the lead in the seventh minute.

However, Real fought back brilliantly, and that too despite their two best players - Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale - having below-par games.

It was Angel Di Maria who was in the mood for the home side, setting up chance after chance, with Karim Benzema the beneficiary. After the France forward missed a nice opportunity, Benzema did equalise for Real in the 20th minute, heading in off a pass from Di Maria. The Argentine would collapse on the ground after the celebrations, but thankfully would recover soon after following some treatment from the medical team.

Benzema then made it 2-1 to Real four minutes later, Di Maria the orchestrator yet again, with the Real striker, this time allowed to take a touch inside the box, before lashing the ball home. Benzema thought he had completed a hat-trick a little later, but only to see Gerard Pique make a fabulous goalline clearance.

After Real had a penalty appeal waved away, Barca were level, thanks to some brilliance from their talisman Messi, who tricked his way into the Real box, before slotting in past three defenders in the 42nd minute. Cesc Fabregas, instead of celebrating, and Pepe, rather than being disappointed, clashed following the goal, falling theatrically after the merest touches of heads. Both players received a yellow card as signs pointed towards more clashes and controversy.

The next big moment came ten minutes into the second half, when Ronaldo went under the challenge of Dani Alves with the referee pointing to the spot. Replays showed the contact was made just outside the box, but Ronaldo did not worry too much about that as he placed the ball into the back of the net to put Real in front.

If Barcelona felt aggrieved by that decision, they would be counting their lucky stars ten minutes later as Neymar, about to be taken off after an underwhelming game, went down under minimal contact from Sergio Ramos. Salt was rubbed into the Real defender's wounds when he was shown a red card for being the last man, a decision which would in the end be the difference - Ramos' 13th sending off in 14 El Clasico's, and the 19th of his career.

Messi stepped up and made no mistake with the spotkick, as Barca ramped up the pressure with the extra man. The advantage would eventually pay off six minutes from time when Iniesta fell to the ground under the attentions of Daniel Carvajal and Xabi Alonso, with the ref awarding a third penalty of the game.

Messi, of course he didn't, despite the Real players seething behind him, was ice-cool, slotting home -- his 21st El Clasico goal, a new record going past Alfredo Di Stefano's mark of 18, and 236th La Liga goal to go second on the all-time list -- to give Barcelona a famous victory.