Granada gave an excellent account as Real Madrid visited but left without anything to show thanks to Luka Modric.
Benzema netted half-an-hour into an even first half, Granada’s speed and direct running in attack breaching the Madrid back line more than once but without a goal as a reward.
When the equaliser came it was in that very fashion but with the bizarre addition of Modric running at referee Jesus Gil Manzano and losing the ball to the charging Granada hordes. El-Arabi netted from there, having been on the pitch mere seconds.
Modric though hammered a powerful effort past Andres Fernandez with five minutes to go as Madrid left Los Carmenes with three points they arguably didn’t deserve, Granada good for at least one if not more.
Zinedine Zidane named an XI unchanged from the one that routed Espanyol while Jose Ramon Sandoval went with an attacking selection, Isaac Success, Ruben Rochina, Adalberto Penaranda and David Barral all starting.
Granada indeed started on the front foot, looking to get in behind the Madrid defence and Keylor Navas twice had to win tackles with Adalberto Penaranda. The forward converted anyway the second time but was offside by distance.
Cristiano Ronaldo sent a shot across goal after he was set away by James Rodriguez and Success did likewise at the other end after a run into the penalty area, Granada committing players forward and risking Madrid counter-attacks.
David Lomban produced a moment of brilliant defending to steer a Modric cross behind his own goal when it looked inevitable he’d knock it into the net, while Sergio Ramos, unaffected by a heavy landing when going for a header, threw in a block in front of his own goal.
But Granada didn’t heed the warning of Modric’s earlier cross and Dmitri Foulquier again left too much space, with Penaranda not covering, and Carvajal cut back for Benzema to open the scoring.
Barral had a snapshot blocked by Raphael Varane as Granada looked for a leveller before half time and Miguel Lopes’ unanswered cross was another promising chance that came to naught.
Success and Barral had further chances immediately after the restart, Navas saving from the latter, a feat bettered by Andres’ stop from a fierce Modric drive shortly after.
Navas didn’t get near Ruben Rochina’s well-struck drive but it cleared the angle of post and bar, and Fernandez was alert when Modric sent Benzema one-on-one, making a fine save to deny the France international his second goal.
Gil Manzano’s inadvertent contribution followed, but in truth the official could do little about the Croatian running directly towards him, Modric more at fault than anyone else.
If anyone was going to win it looked more like being Granada with a goal disallowed for offside and a penalty appeal rejected, but that was before Modric made amends for his earlier blunder and leathered past Andres, keeping his side in the title race.
Granada 1-2 Real Madrid
El-Arabi 58 (G) Benzema 30, Modric 85 (RM)
Granada: Andres; Lopes, Lomban, Costa, Foulquier; Rico, Perez; Success, Rochina, Penaranda; Barral
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Isco, Modric, Kroos, James; Ronaldo, Benzema
Referee: Gil Manzano