(CNN) -- Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of the game with just nine minutes to go as Real Madrid scrambled a 1-0 away win at Sporting Gijon to stay top of the Spanish Primera.
Real looked set to be trailing their arch-rivals Barcelona after the defending champions had beaten third-placed Villarreal in the Camp Nou on Saturday night.
But with time running out, substitute Karim Benzema headed a Sergio Ramos cross which Juan Pablo in the home goal could only parry to leave Higuain with the simplest of tap-ins.
It was tough on Sporting and their coach Manolo Preciado, who was furious with his Real counterpart Jose Mourinho after the Portuguese suggested his side had not put up a fight when they played Barcelona.
Higuain hit the post early in the first half but Sporting always offered a threat on the break.
But after they fell behind tempers flared and in the final minute Alberto Botia was given a straight red for a robust challenge on Real's Cristiano Ronaldo.
In other action on Sunday, a late Alvaro Negredo goal gave 10-man Sevilla a 2-1 win over bottom side Real Zaragoza as they moved into a Champions League place.
Barcelona are a point adrift after 11 rounds as Argentine star Leo Messi scored twice for the champions in a superb 3-1 victory over in-form Villarreal on Saturday night.
David Villa scored the other goal with Brazilian Nilmar grabbing the Villarreal goal. They are now six points off the pace set by Real.