BARCELONA Sergio Ramos showed his enduring worth to Real Madrid with a towering 90th-minute header to salvage a 1-1 draw at Barcelona, producing the latest in a series of crucial escape acts for his side.
Sent off on his last visit to the Nou Camp, the Real captain flung himself at Luka Modric's arched free-kick to silence the 98,000 Barcelona supporters and preserve Zinedine Zidane's side's six-point lead over their great rivals at the top of La Liga.
Ramos has developed a habit of coming to his side's rescue in the last few years, having headed late equalisers in the 2014 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid and in this year's UEFA Super Cup final against Sevilla. Both times, Real went on to lift the trophies.
A man for the big occasion, Ramos also scored in last season's Champions League final, also against Atletico. And his late intervention at the Nou Camp could yet prove historic, as Real stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 33 games, one shy of a club record.
"The goal was vital as it keeps us picking up points," Ramos said. "We had worked really well and the scoreline was not being fair on us, and Luka's great cross mixed things up. I'm delighted with the goal."
Real are chasing a first La Liga title since Jose Mourinho lead them to a record 100-point total in 2012.
"The point is the reward for all the hard work we've done since the start of the season. We can't get carried away and we know there's a long way to go in the season but it's much better that it's in our hands," added Ramos.
Coach Zidane hailed the fighting spirit of Real, who have scored decisive goals in the last five minutes of games five times in all competitions this season.
"I have to recognise the heart of this team once again. We kept believing right until the end. We got a draw that is important for us," the Frenchman told a news conference.
"Sergio has this special capacity to do things like this. In games like this, he is always there, encouraging the other players and never gives up.
"I don't know if the result is fair or not. When you look at the first half we had chances to cause them damage. Then, when they scored, they became more encouraged but we kept doing things our way."
(Reporting by Richard Martin,; Editing by Neville Dalton)