Raul and Julio Baptista found the target as Real Madrid saw off Real Betis to return to the top of La Liga.
Bernd Schuster's side dominated the opening 30 minutes but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was when Wesley Sneijder's free-kick forced a fine save out of Ricardo Pereira.
Betis had the first good chance of the game but Mark Gonzalez could not take advantage of a defensive mix-up as he blazed over from close range.
David Rivas then struck the crossbar with a powerful header, and it was Madrid who went into the break relieved to be on level terms.
Arjen Robben and Robinho were introduced early in the second half and Madrid instantly looked more threatening.
The crucial moment arrived on 67 minutes when Raul stroked home a penalty after being brought down by Rivas.
Betis created enough opportunities to equalise but were made to rue their poor finishing when Baptista's stunning overhead kick clinched the points for Madrid five minutes from time.