Cristiano Ronaldo struck the quickest hat-trick of his career on his way to netting five goals in Real Madrid's 9-1 drubbing of second-from-bottom Granada today which took Real to within a point of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Portugal forward Ronaldo struck three times in eight minutes after Gareth Bale had fired Real ahead in the 25th minute on a festive, sun-drenched afternoon at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo has scored three or more goals 24 times in La Liga, equalling the record set this season by his great rival, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.
World Player of the Year Ronaldo has 31 career hat-tricks overall but today’s effort was only the second time he has scored one in the first half.
After failing to find the net in his previous nine outings, Bale netted his fifth in his last four appearances for club and country when he pounced on a defensive error, rounded goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and slotted the ball into the empty net.
Ronaldo clipped home his first of the game five minutes later, added a second after more poor defending in the 36th minute and a third in the 38th when Oier could only palm his fierce shot into the net.
Karim Benzema made it 5-0 at a corner seven minutes into the second half, Ronaldo nodded his fourth two minutes later and Benzema grabbed his second a further two minutes after that as Real put a woeful Granada to the sword.
Robert Ibanez pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 74th minute before Granada defender Diego Mainz put the ball into his own net seven minutes from time and Ronaldo nodded his fifth in the final minute.
Ronaldo's five goals, the first time he has achieved the feat, took his tally in La Liga this season to 36.
The crushing victory for second-placed Real was just the tonic they needed after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions, including a 2-1 reverse at Barca in the 'Clasico' on 22 March.
In stark contrast to Real Madrid's free-flowing goals fest, Barcelona made hard work of their riposte and had to rely on a late headed goal from Jeremy Mathieu to restore their four-point lead in the standings.
Celta Vigo finished the game with 10 men after Fabian Orellana was shown a straight red card for throwing a piece of turf at Sergio Busquets in the 88th minute.
Red-hot Valencia were frustrated in their bid to reclaim third spot back off Atletico Madrid as they were held to a goalless draw by local rivals Villarreal.
Los Che, looking for a seventh win in eight matches, created the better of what few chances were on show at the Mestalla but could not find a way past visiting keeper Sergio Asenjo.
Elsewhere, Getafe moved seven points clear of the relegation zone by beating fellow strugglers Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 at home.
Alexis Ruano and Sergio Escudero both scored their first goals of the season to give Pablo Franco's side a two-goal lead at half-time, but the Galicians produced a much better performance after the break and had several chances to score before substitute Toche pulled a goal back in the 78th minute.