The debate over who is better out of Ronaldo or Barca counterpart Messi has raged for some time now, but unlike the former, the latter has always been able to call on an impeccable record in this fixture.
Ronaldo stepped up on this occasion, scoring a 73rd-minute winner that puts Jose Mourinho's men seven points clear of their old foes at the top of the table with four games remaining.
He struck just two minutes after Alexis Sanchez had bundled in an equaliser to cancel out Sami Khedira's equally scrappy first-half opener - a goal that set a new record for goals in a league season.
It was the Portugal forward's standout contribution on a night when Madrid, humiliated 5-1 on this ground last season, strangled their normally free-passing hosts.
Messi was barely allowed a kick and his playmaking team-mates - Xavi and Andres Iniesta - were largely stifled by a Madrid side fully aware of the rewards on offer.