After 70 minutes, it looked like Barcelona were going to lose their fourth straight match and bow out of the title race. Instead, Pedro and Lionel Messi both scored, two minutes part, as the Blaugrana survived for a 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
Both teams had good chances in the opening 15 minutes, but neither could break through. Aritz Aduriz just missed with a shot from the right side of the box, sending the ball rolling past the post.
Barca responded a few minutes later but Pedro's poorly struck ball from close range was stopped by Gorka Iraizoz. Messi got a golden opportunity as well, but once against Iraizoz was there to make the stop.
Aduriz unleashed a wicked bicycle kick attempt in the 30th minute, doing nearly everything right in the process except his targeting, as the ball hammered off the post. Less than two minutes later Alexis Sánchez ran past his marker on the right side of the Athletic box, but his re-direct of Pedro's cross hit off the crossbar.
Finally in the 50th minute, someone managed to avoid both a goalkeeper and the woodwork, as Atheltic Bilbao took a 1-0 lead. Marc Barta misplayed the ball on the edge of the box, allowing Iker Muniaín to push the ball to Aduriz, who took advantage of a backpedaling Dani Alves giving his far too much space before firing a low shot inside the far post.
Iraizoz came up big yet again in the 58th minute, denying Pedro from close range with a kick save.
Barca finally solved the Atheltic goalkeeper in the 72nd minute. Dani Alves made a tremendous play on the left wing to evade Mike Rico, before feeding Sánchez who one-touched the ball into Pedro for the close range finish, evening the match at 1-1.
Two minutes later, Lionel Messi rocketed a free kick from 18-yards out past the wall and Iraizoz to give Barca a 2-1 lead. For some reason, Iraizoz moved towards his wall as Messi approached the ball, leaving a gap for the Argentine striker to exploit as Atheltic's keeper couldn't move back to his left quickly enough.
Javier Mascherano completely sold out his body in the 90th minute, diving in front of close range, re-directed shot from Mikel Rico, to keep the ball out of the net, preserving the Barcelona victory.
Barcelona: Pinto, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Xavi (Fàbregas 70'), Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Sánchez (Tello 87')
Goals: Pedro (72'), Messi (74')
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz, De Marcos, San José, Laporte, Balenziaga, Iturraspe (Beñat 83'), Moran (Mikel Rico 64'), Herrera, Susaeta (Torquero 86'), Muniain, Aduriz
Goals: Aduriz (50')