In one of La Liga's most entertaining games this season, Barcelona claimed a 3-2 victory over Valencia at the Mestalla.
Lionel Messi bagged a first-half hat-trick in sensational fashion, but Helder Postiga scored two goals in two minutes before the interval to set up a tense second period.
Both sides vied for control in an even contest, and els Blaugrana survived a late scare when Jonas kissed the post with a long-range effort.
The visitors reintroduced Cesc Fabregas to the midfield after cameoing up front against Malaga, meaning Messi and Neymar could combine for their first start together in Blaugrana colours.
They started in typical fashion, controlling the ball with ease and setting a slow, comfortable tempo to work at. Los Che made it clear they weren't willing to let them play and chased their opponents down with gusto right from the first whistle.
Neymar netted on the 10-minute mark and was questionably ruled offside, but any gripes were forgotten just 60 seconds later, when Messi finished a one-on-one after Fabregas' sublime through-ball.
The home side failed to respond, and with legs already flailing a little after doggedly chasing shadows, dropped deeper and deeper into their own half. Neymar would cut in off the left to fire goalward only to find 11 white shirts defending the penalty area.
But after Cesc sent an effort into Diego Alves' arms from distance, Miroslav Dukic's troops kicked into gear and started threatening.
Helder Postiga played a thankless, lonely role up front, but he managed to engineer shooting chances for Dorlan Pabon and Ever Banega. Valencia moved through the gears, and the fans responded. However, just as they were settling into a rhythm, Messi struck again.
While in the process of playing out from the back, Barca's pressing caught the home side out. Stealing the ball high up, Messi was set loose, and a right-footed finish from 18 yards caught Alves in the lurch.
Just as Gerardo Martino had begun sitting back down, Messi struck again, securing a 40-minute hat-trick after good work from Neymar on the left.
Home and dry? Not even close, as Postiga struck twice just before halftime to make things rather uncomfortable for Cules.
The first was a stunning scissor kick after Pabon's cross had drifted behind the striker, his second a deft near-post header that looped over Valdes' outstretched arms.
Valencia started the second half the better side, matching the visitors in terms of possession and continuing to snap at their heels.
Andres Guardado fired a great chance well wide after breaking through on the left, but the opening 20 minutes were largely dominated by poor deliveries, particularly crosses, in crucial moments.
That trend was bucked when Messi fired in a perfect near-post ball for Pedro, who inexplicably headed wide from six yards despite being unchallenged by the defenders.
The final 15 minutes were riddled with chances, and while Messi could and should have scored another goal, it was Valencia who provided the final scare.
Substitute Jonas worked a yard of space on the edge of the box, then fired a left-footed effort against the outside of the post as Valdes counted his blessings.
Key Player Grades
Cesc Fabregas: A-
Two magnificent through-balls for Messi's opening two goals affirmed he is still the most in-form playmaker in world football.
Lionel Messi: A
A 40-minute hat-trick cannot be sniffed at, and the Argentine wizard remains as clinical as ever.
Helder Postiga: A
Postiga played a fantastic game, not just because of his goals, but because of the unenviable role a lone striker plays against Barcelona nowadays. Top effort.
Full Player Grades
Barcelona host Sevilla at home on Sept. 14, while Valencia travel to Real Betis the day after.
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