Real Madrid closed the gap on leaders Sevilla with a 2-0 win over Valencia as Isco made his return as a substitute.
Left in the stands in midweek the Spain captain came on in the second half but it was an own-goal from Daniel Wass and a second from Lucas Vazquez that separated the teams.
Thibaut Courtois also played his part saving brilliantly from his former Chelsea team-mate Michy Batshuayi in the second half.
Madrid went ahead on eight minutes when Dani Carvajal crossed from the right and Wass headed past his own keeper.
Luka Modric, who will travel to Paris on Monday where he is expected to pick up the Balon d’Or, crossed from the right and when the ball was only half cleared Carvajal overpowered Jose Gaya on the byline to pull it back for Wass’ misplaced header.
Valencia were not just behind they had already picked up two yellow cards with former Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista cautioned for a clumsy challenge on Beznema and Carlos Soler booked for a foul on Sergio Reguilon. Gaya soon made it three when he dragged down Vazquez.
Madrid were worth their lead and with Sergio Ramos diving into tackles high up the pitch often in the Valencia half there was an intensity to the home side that has been missing so often this season.
Benzema also typified it when he lost the ball and sprinted back to win possession within seconds.
Gareth Bale could have scored the second but Neto saved well at his near post. He then curled another long shot just wide and Benzema went close from Modric’s pass.
Madrid had dominated the first half with 66 per cent of possession but the second goal had not arrived.
They almost paid for that on 53 minutes when Dani Parejo played the pass of the game to send Santi Mina clear. He took the ball down well with his first touch but with the whole goal to aim at he fired over.
Valencia came even closer just after the hour mark when Francis Coquelin flicked on a Parejo’s freekick and Garay blazed over.
Madrid had slowed considerable since the break and Bale was replaced by Asensio who then missed a great chance to finally double Madrid’s lead.
Marcos Llorente broke from deep swapping passes with team-mates as he galloped forward and when he finally found himself in right wing territory he crossed for Asensio who just had to find a gap to finish. His shot instead cannoned off Cristiano Piccini.
Chelsea loanee Batshuayi was on for Valencia and he went through one-on-one with only former Chelsea team-mate Courtois to beat.
The keeper won the battle of the Belgian internationals making the save. The flag had been raised incorrectly and would have been over-ruled by VAR. Courtois had saved his side.
Both sides were tiring but one man still had a full tank – Carvajal motored up the right wing hurdling tackles as he went he swapped passes with substitute Isco and then crossed for Asensio.
The forward couldn’t finish but Benzema picked up the loose ball and rolled it to Vazquez who directed it passed Neto to seal victory for Real Madrid.