Real Madrid came back from two down to beat Villarreal 3-2 and return to the top of La Liga, but their turnaround was marred by more refereeing controversy.
BBC started in La Liga for the first time since October 29 as Madrid needed to beat a much-changed Villarreal, given Sevilla and Barcelona both won beforehand.
However, the best of the first half arguably fell to Villarreal. Mario Gaspar was teed up for a free shot at goal by Manuel Trigueros, and he forced Keylor Navas into a fingertip save.
However, Sergio Asenjo was soon on hand to push Karim Benzema’s header off his line after Marcelo had picked out the Frenchman with an inch-perfect delivery towards the back post.
The Yellow Submarine suffered a blow when Asenjo went off injured, but Samu Castillejo nonetheless proceeded to leave his opponent for dead down the right and watch his cutback deflect into the path of Jonathan dos Santos, whose shot is turned just wide.
Castillejo was then completely unmarked when he ran onto a cross at the back post, but he somehow slid the ball into orbit from point-blank range.
Cedric Bakambu was a revelation last season but had scored just three goals in 2016-17 prior to the game. He came in from the left and hit a shot straight at Navas, who pushed it away.
Bale started the second half in full flight as he drove down the right, cut inside and teed up Benzema for a clear shot at goal, but the striker could only hit the ball straight at Fernandez.
Yet it was Villarreal that made the breakthrough. Adrian Lopez's chipped cross towards the back post is was down by Castillejo for Trigueros, who volleyed hard and low past Navas.
Just six minutes later, the Yellow Submarine grabbed a second goal. Bakambu ran onto a through ball, shook off Sergio Ramos and poked a finish beyond Navas.
Madrid, however, didn’t let their heads drop. A deflection fell straight to Ronaldo, who smacked the ball with his laces, but his effort crashed against the post and off Fernandez by surprise.
Zinedine Zidane responded by making his first decisive change, bringing on Isco for Casemiro. The substitute made an immediate impact, laying off Carvajal, who clipped a lovely cross towards the far post for a towering Bale header past Fernandez.
Madrid spent the remaining half-hour throwing the kitchen sink at Villarreal, and though their pressure earned them a penalty, the hosts were very hard done by as replays showed the ball clearly hit Bruno in the chest.
Fernandez guessed the right way, but Ronaldo’s penalty was too strong for the goalkeeper.
Alvaro Morata soon entered the fray, and the striker found the winner when his header from an inch-perfect Marcelo delivery squirmed through Fernandez’s gloves and over the line.
Morata could’ve created even more distance between the two sides, having been totally unmarked in the Villarreal box when he met a low cross from the right, but he somehow failed to hit the target.
Despite the euphoric nature of the victory, Bale was forced off in the dying embers after he fell horribly on his ankle.
Villarreal 2-3 Real Madrid
Trigueros 50, Bakambu 56 (V) Bale 64, Ronaldo pen 74, Morata 83 (RM)
Villarreal: Asenjo (Fernandez 35); Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Costa; Castillejo, Trigueros (Trigueros 75), Bruno; Jonathan; Bakambu, Adrian (Cheryshev 57)
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro (Isco 58), Kroos; Bale (Lucas 89), Benzema (Morata 77), Ronaldo
Referee: Gil Manzano