Sergio Ramos headed another dramatic injury-time goal as Spanish league leaders Real Madrid created a new club record of 35 matches unbeaten with a barely deserved win against Deportivo La Coruna.
Real, without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo, fought back from 2-1 down in the final six minutes to restore their six-point advantage over arch-rivals Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane’s side laboured in an uninspiring first half which saw Depor midfielder Celso Borges head against the post.
Striker Alvaro Morata’s 20-yard drive shortly after the restart appeared to ease the tension among the home fans.
However, Depor substitute Joselu – on loan from English Premier League side Stoke – swung the match dramatically in favour of the visitors.
He powered in the equaliser with a rising drive into the top-left corner after ex-Aston Villa midfielder Carles Gil dispossessed Casemiro on the edge of his penalty area.
And Joselu, who came through the ranks at the Bernabeu, increased the nervousness by pouncing on more defensive uncertainty to slot home.
But the drama did not end there.
Real equalised with six minutes left when substitute Mariano Diaz scored his first La Liga goal with a fortuitous effort that flew in off his shoulder.
Then, skipper Ramos – whose late equaliser earned Real a vital draw at Barcelona last weekend – headed in Toni Kroos’ corner to spark jubilant celebrations at the Bernabeu.
Madrid have not won La Liga since 2012 but will end the calendar year in pole position after rediscovering their resilience since club legend Zidane replaced Rafael Benitez in January.
Los Merengues went into Saturday’s game having taken 87 of the 102 points on offer in their previous 34 league matches and, although Zidane’s side have not always been fluent, they have developed a useful knack of refusing to acknowledge when they are beaten.
The French World Cup winner has instilled a never-say-die attitude in his side that has yielded some important points in the biggest moments.
And, just seven days after Ramos salvaged a draw in El Clasico, that fighting spirit was apparent again against fifth-bottom Deportivo.
Madrid were missing a number of stellar names as Zidane named a much-changed side with one eye on next week’s Club World Cup in Japan.
Without Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, plus injured Wales forward Gareth Bale, they lacked fluency and looked defensive vulnerable.
But the home side continued to believe they could turn the game back in their favour as Depor dropped deeper.
The pressure eventually told. The visiting defence buckled as Ramos rose highest, the away players buckling to the turf in despair.
A trip to Japan for Real Madrid. The Champions League winners go to the Club World Cup, where they will play either South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors or Mexican side America in the semi-finals on Thursday (10:30 GMT).
Deportivo, who have won just once in nine matches, will be eyeing next Sunday’s home game against bottom side Osasuna as an opportunity to move away from the bottom three.
Referee:Santiago Jaime LatreAttendance:67,174
Home TeamReal MadridAway TeamDeportivo La CoruñaPossessionHome64%Away36%ShotsHome17Away4Shots on TargetHome5Away2CornersHome10Away3FoulsHome16Away17
Match ends, Real Madrid 3, Deportivo de La Coruña 2.
Posted at 90'+7'
Second Half ends, Real Madrid 3, Deportivo de La Coruña 2.
Posted at 90'+6'
Corner, Deportivo de La Coruña. Conceded by Pepe.
Attempt missed. Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Mariano with a cross.
Posted at 90'+5'
Lucas Vázquez (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Pedro Mosquera (Deportivo de La Coruña).
Posted at 90'+4'
Foul by Mariano (Real Madrid).
Fernando Navarro (Deportivo de La Coruña) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Posted at 90'+2'
Goal! Real Madrid 3, Deportivo de La Coruña 2. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) header from very close range to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Toni Kroos with a cross following a corner.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Posted at 90'+1'
Delay in match Przemyslaw Tyton (Deportivo de La Coruña) because of an injury.
Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Przemyslaw Tyton.
Attempt saved. Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Pepe with a cross.
Posted at 88'
Keylor Navas (Real Madrid) is shown the yellow card.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) is shown the yellow card.
Posted at 87'
Posted at 86'
Juanfran (Deportivo de La Coruña) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Posted at 85'
Casemiro (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joselu (Deportivo de La Coruña).
Posted at 84'
Goal! Real Madrid 2, Deportivo de La Coruña 2. Mariano (Real Madrid) with an attempt from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Lucas Vázquez with a cross.
Posted at 83'
Nacho (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Faycal Fajr (Deportivo de La Coruña).
Posted at 82'
Substitution, Deportivo de La Coruña. Faycal Fajr replaces Ryan Babel.
Posted at 81'
Substitution, Real Madrid. Marcelo replaces Danilo.
Posted at 75'
Offside, Real Madrid. Toni Kroos tries a through ball, but Mariano is caught offside.
Substitution, Deportivo de La Coruña. Pedro Mosquera replaces Florin Andone.
Posted at 74'
Pepe (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Dangerous play by Florin Andone (Deportivo de La Coruña).
Posted at 72'
Substitution, Real Madrid. Mariano replaces Isco.
Posted at 70'
Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Deportivo de La Coruña. Fernando Navarro tries a through ball, but Florin Andone is caught offside.
Posted at 68'
Foul by Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid).
Guilherme (Deportivo de La Coruña) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Danilo (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Florin Andone (Deportivo de La Coruña).
Posted at 67'
Attempt blocked. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nacho.
Posted at 66'
Substitution, Real Madrid. Lucas Vázquez replaces Marco Asensio.
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