(CNN) -- Two more goals from Lionel Messi, taking him to 50 goals in all competitions in a remarkable season, saw Barcelona win 2-0 at Racing Santander on Sunday to close the gap on Spanish leaders Real Madrid back to 10 points.
Fresh from bagging an astonishing five goals in the 7-1 Champions League rout of Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, the Argentine maestro again proved the catalyst for another Barcelona win as the defending Spanish champions kept within range of Jose Mourinho's side, who beat Real Betis 3-2 on Saturday.
Racing appointed Alvaro Cervera as their new coach last weekend in an attempt to arrest a slide that has seen them drop into the relegation zone after going eight matches without a victory.
However, they always looked second best against a Barca side, who went ahead in the 29th minute when Messi slid home to score from close range after being set up by Cesc Fabregas on the right.
And Fabregas also played a hand in the second goal -- the former Arsenal midfielder earning a 56th minute penalty after being fouled by Domingo Cisma, with Messi making no mistake from the spot.
Barca wasted further chances to extend their advantage, but Messi missed a one-on-one opportunity for his hat-trick, while Juan Cuenca struck the post.
Of his 50 goals this season, Messi has scored 30 in the Primera Liga, meaning he still trails Cristiano Ronaldo by two goals in the Spanish golden boot standings.
Pep Guardiola's side are now a massive 24 points clear of third-placed Valenica, who squandered a two-goal lead before being held 2-2 by Real Mallorca.
Valencia, who have won just one of their last four matches, went ahead through Tino Costa's deflected shot and doubled their advantage early in the second half when a mistake from Mallorca goalkeeper Dudu Aouate allowed Aritz Aduriz to score.
But Emilio Nsue and Victor Casadesus turned things around for the visitors and Valencia ended the match with 10 men after Costa was dismissed for a two-footed challenge.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid and Espanyol kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
Nigerian international Kalu Uche scored a hat-trick as Espanyol crushed Rayo Vallecano 5-1, while Atletico beat Granada 2-0.
Atletico and Espanyol lie eighth and ninth in the table respectively, a point behind seventh-placed Athletico Bilbao who slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Osasuna.
Despite their impressive 3-2 Europa League victory at Manchester United on Thursday, Bilbao failed to kick on from that display.
Osasuna took the lead when Ander Iturraspe headed a free-kick into his own goal after nine minutes and Raul Garcia doubled their lead before Fernando Llorente pulled a goal back for the visitors.