Real Madrid lost more ground on Barcelona in the La Liga title race after they were held to a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo inside an electric Balaidos on Sunday evening.
The hosts took the lead via a simply stunning Daniel Wass chip on the half-hour mark, but less than five minutes later Los Blancos were the ones with the advantage thanks to two quick-fire Gareth Bale finishes before the break.
However, during a difficult second period for the Spanish capital side, the hosts eventually drew level once again, as Maxi Gomez nodded home late on, a goal which could have been the winner had teammate Aigo Aspas’ penalty not been denied by Keylor Navas with 20 minutes remaining.
As it was, much like Barcelona on Thursday evening, Real had to settle for a stalemate in Vigo, and now find themselves 16 points removed from Ernesto Valverde’s side at the top of La Liga.
As has not been the case often enough so far this campaign, it was an assured start from the visitors on a chilly night in north-west Spain, with Zinedine Zidane’s side’s high press offering an early sight on goal.
Isco, who was drafted into the starting XI to replace Mateo Kovacic following Real’s disappointing 3-0 pre-Christmas Clasico defeat last time out in the league, found his way through a maze of Celta defenders before lofting his cross into the area.
The scooped lob offered hosts’ custodian Ruben Blanco more than enough time to come and claim possession, however, the Spaniard’s decision to remain on his goal-line almost proved costly as Gareth Bale look destined to latch onto the hanging ball.
But the Welshman seemed to succumb to the defensive pressures applied to him from the Celtics back line, and the attempt ended up skimming the frontman’s head and trundling into the hesitant hands of the 22-year-old.
However, despite their early dominance, it was Celta who crafted the first real opening of the evening, as Iago Aspas rattled the woodwork shortly after the 10-minute mark.
The 30-year-old striker did well to slip away from his marker at the front post before latching onto a fizzed Hugo Mallo cross, but the former Liverpool man’s volley could not squeeze itself into the back of the net after beating the dive of Keylor Navas.
As the opening 45 continued to tick along Celta continued to look the most likely to break the deadlock, and thanks to a simply stunning Wass finish, they did so shortly after the half-hour point.
Following a sloppy surrender of possession in the attacking third from Real, Aspas received possession on the halfway line before being allowed to turn and initiate a surge towards the opposition backline.
As the Spaniard flew forward he was offered the pass to the advancing Wass, who was found in acres of the space on the right-hand side.
Despite plenty of free greenery in front of the Dane, the winger instead elected to chance his arm against the somewhat straying Navas and lifted his attempt over the Costa Rican from the edge of the area into the back of the net to spark scenes of jubilation inside the well-filled Balaidos.
Almost instantly from the restart, the hosts could have been afforded the opportunity to double their lead, but after hesitant decision-making from Maxi Gomez, they instead found themselves back level again.
Following the Uruguayan losing possession on the edge of the Real area, the play was quickly transferred to Toni Kroos, who spotted the lightning run of Bale and was only too happy to oblige in feeding the Welshman.
The former world’s most expensive player, who was making his first league start since September, took the pass in his stride before trickling his finish across the floor and into the far corner past the spread-eagle Blanco.
But for the hosts the worst was still to come, as less than five minutes after going ahead, Bale had the ball in the net for the second time in almost as many minutes to give the visitors the lead.
This time the provider of the simply stunning assist fell on Isco, who had looked the Spanish capital’s most dangerous player for the majority of the first-half.
Similarly to Kroos, the 25-year-old instantly spotted the run from his returning teammate, while 40-yards from goal, who then, with the slightest of touches, guided his effort first-time past the static Celta custodian to give his side a somewhat undeserved lead at the break.
The opening of the second 45 was as frantic as the closing prequel, with both sides clashing over the crossbar in the first quarter of an hour, Real’s via Isco and Celta’s courtesy of Jonny Otto, amid a sea of noise from the Balaidos faithful.
Those inside the Portuguese-bordered cauldron then burst into overdrive even more so with 20 minutes to go, as following superb build-up play by the hosts, Navas was forced to fell Aspas inside the area as the Spaniard attempted to round his opposite man.
Referee Santiago Jaime Latre made no hesitation in pointing to the spot but received a barrage of cat whistles as he brandished only a yellow card in the direction of the 31-year-old as punishment for the challenge.
That arguably slice of luck for Real then paid dividends, as the Costa Rica international made up for his own initial error and palmed Aspas’ well-struck penalty away, albeit after advancing from his goal-line considerably before clawing the spot kick from danger.
But just less than 10 minutes from time Navas could do nothing to stop Gomez drawing his side level, with the youngster finally displaying his talents after yet another under-par showing.
It was Wass involved again, as the Denmark international was picked out on the right-hand side before the 28-year-old delivered a hanging cross which was met by the criminally unopposed Uruguayan inside the six-yard box, who turned his header home with ease past the flailing Los Blancos shot-stopper.
But the late drama was far from over, as inside the final five minutes Aspas found himself on the turf again inside the Real area, this time under the challenge of Marcelo, but official Lattre waved protests away, much to the dismay of the Spaniard.
Despite a late surge, Real could do nothing about settling for a draw and now find themselves will a truly insurmountable challenge ahead in their quest to get their hands on the La Liga title at the end of this season.