FC Barcelona were shocked 3-2 at Osasuna on Saturday, but Gustavo Cabral gave Levante an unexpected fifth-minute lead it looked like Madrid would miss out on the opportunity to push their lead into double digits.
The result hinged on Vicente Iborra’s dismissal on 43 minutes, with Ronaldo drawing José Mourinho’s team level from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time. The Portugal forward wrapped up his sixth Liga hat-trick of the season with a header and splendid shot within 12 minutes of the restart, before Karim Benzema completed the scoring after Arouna Koné had briefly restored hope for the visitors.
Eight points adrift of Barcelona in third are Valencia following their comprehensive 4-0 home win against Real Sporting de Gijón. Espanyol are fifth, meanwhile, after they suffered a surprise 2-0 home loss against bottom-placed Real Zaragoza, previously without a league victory since mid-October.
Elsewhere, Rayo Vallecano beat ten-man Getafe 2-0, seventh-placed Málaga triumphed 3-1 against Mallorca and Villarreal defeated Granada by the same scoreline.