Barcelona thrash Atletico Madrid as Messi out-guns Falcao
Falcao put Atletico ahead in the first half but, despite enjoying the better of the opening 45 minutes, Diego Simeone's side trailed at the break after a stunning goal from Adriano and a well-taken effort from Sergio Busquets.
Messi was a long way from his magical best but still ended up with two goals - his 89th and 90th of a remarkable 2012 - to quell Atletico's challenge in the second period.
It all added up to a wonderful night for Tito Vilanova's men who not only moved a further three points clear of second-placed Atletico at the summit but also took to the Nou Camp pitch moments after arch-rivals Real Madrid had been held to a surprise 2-2 draw by Espanyol at the Bernabeu.
That stalemate left Madrid 13 points adrift of the Catalans - a deficit even boss Jose Mourinho admitted would be "practically impossible" to overhaul.