Henry & Messi imperious
Barcelona took a giant step towards winning the Primera Division title after crushing arch rivals and nearest challengers Real Madrid in stunning fashion at the Bernabeu.
Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi both netted braces while Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were also on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola's treble-chasers inflicted a first league defeat on in-form Madrid since beating the reigning champions at the Nou Camp in December.
Madrid had picked up 52 points from a possible 54 since that match, but their hopes of a third successive title now look sunk after they fell seven points adrift of Barca with only four games remaining.
Barca, who also hold the better head-to-head record against their rivals, can now clinch the title next weekend if they beat Villarreal and Madrid lose to Valencia.
In last season's corresponding fixture Barca had a night to forget, starting with the chastening experience of giving hosts Madrid a guard of honour and applauding them onto the pitch for having just won the league, and ending with a 4-1 hammering.
It was a completely different story tonight, though they needed to bounce back from an early deficit as Madrid went ahead inside 14 minutes through Gonzalo Higuain.
Sergio Ramos sent over a cross from the right and Higuain rose unmarked to head home his 19th league goal of the season to send the Bernabeu wild.
Barca need not have worried though as within six minutes of that goal they had turned the game on its head with strikes from Henry and Puyol.
The lively Henry drew Barca level in the 18th minute when Ramos failed to cut out Lionel Messi's through-ball and the Frenchman coolly rolled his shot past Iker Casillas.
Henry was also involved in the goal that put Barca ahead soon after, winning a free-kick to the left of the area that Xavi curled into the area where the unmarked Puyol headed home inside the near post.
It was a two-minute spell which could have helped decide the title, as after that turnaround Barca went into overdrive.
The visitors rode their luck briefly when goalkeeper Victor Valdes did well to deny Arjen Robben, but otherwise it was home custodian Casillas who was under the cosh.
He produced three superb saves to deny Lionel Messi (twice) and Samuel Eto'o in the space of six minutes as Barca repeatedly swept through the home defence.
Casillas could do nothing to prevent Messi putting Barca 3-1 up in the 35th minute though after Madrid committed defensive suicide.
Lassana Diarra was caught in possession by Xavi deep inside Madrid territory, and with the home side's backline nowhere in the vicinity, Messi had all the time in the world to collect the ball, stroll into the area and slide a low shot past Casillas.
That was a bitter blow for Madrid after seemingly weathering the worst of the Barca storm, but it was no more than Guardiola's side deserved.
Barca continued to look the more likely to get another goal as well, with Dani Alves testing Casillas with a long-range free-kick just before the break before Iniesta went close at the start of the second half.
It was actually Madrid who would find the breakthrough though thanks to Ramos.
Iniesta was adjudged to have fouled Robben just outside the box, and from the resulting kick Ramos headed home Robben's cross at the far post to give Madrid a much-needed boost.
That euphoria was to last all of a minute before Henry restored Barca's two-goal advantage.
Xavi picked out the Frenchman's run in behind Ramos and Henry reached the ball before the outreaching Casillas. Madrid fans could only watch in horror as the Barca striker's shot slowly rolled into the net.
That knocked the stuffing out of Madrid, and they were left facing total humiliation after Messi made it 5-2 in the 75th minute, the Argentinian magician picking up a pass from Xavi before beating Casillas at his near post.
The nightmare had not finished there for Madrid though, and Pique wrapped up the scoring eight minutes from time with what was Barca's 100th league goal of the season.
Barca can now look forward to their midweek Champions League semi-final trip to Chelsea confident that they virtually have the Primera Division title wrapped up.I HOPE WE REALLY POUND CHELSEA IN THEIR OWN BACKYARD