Despite having central defender Raul Albiol dismissed just after halftime, Real fought back from a goal down to snatch a 1-1 draw in a tense encounter at a packed Bernabeu, the first of four “Clasicos” between the arch rivals in three competitions in 18 days.
However, the result preserved Barca’s eight-point lead over second-placed Real at the top of the standings with six games left and put them within touching distance of a third straight league under coach Pep Guardiola.
“Madrid will in no way emerge stronger,” Spain international Xavi told reporters.
“We were superior, faithful to ourselves and we come away with positive feelings despite not getting the three points,” he added. “We had control, with patience, we defended well and the game just got away from us at the end.”
Barca, who host struggling Osasuna in La Liga on Saturday (1800 GMT), are on 85 points from 32 matches, with Real on 77 ahead of their match at third-placed Valencia, in Saturday’s earlier kickoff (1600).
Barca also have a superior head-to-head record thanks to their 5-0 demolition of Real at the Nou Camp in November that would clinch the title if the pair finished level on points.
Real are bidding for a first trophy in three seasons when the Spanish giants clash in the Cup final in Valencia. They also meet in the two-legged European Champions League semi-final at the Bernabeu on April 27 and at the Nou Camp on May 3.
Barca dominated possession for long periods on Saturday and Guardiola admitted they perhaps should have gone for the jugular after Lionel Messi put them ahead from the spot in the 53rd minute following Albiol’s dismissal.
Real’s players, for their part, drew some comfort from the fact they managed to come from behind to snatch a point despite a numerical disadvantage thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty with around 10 minutes remaining.
“The most important thing is that when we were losing and down to 10 men we showed the character to go on the counter attack and score a goal,” Real’s Spain defender Alvaro Arbeloa told reporters.
“If we continue to show such character we have a chance to win the upcoming games,” centre back Ricardo Carvalho added.