Joselu’s late penalty denied Barcelona as Espanyol rescued a 1-1 draw during a Catalan derby that descended into chaos towards the end.
The Blaugrana replaced Real Madrid at LaLiga’s summit on goal difference but were forced to settle for a point on their return to action despite dominating with over three-quarters of the possession and 21 shots.
Marcos Alonso broke the deadlock with an early header but then conceded the spot-kick that Joselu converted 17 minutes from time.
Both sides ended the game with 10 men after Jordi Alba and Vinicius Souza were dismissed for second bookings as referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz – the man in charge of Argentina’s feisty World Cup quarter-final clash with the Netherlands earlier this month – prolifically handed out cards during the bruising final exchanges.
Barcelona quickly established their authority by taking the lead seven minutes in – Andreas Christensen kept Alba’s corner alive with a header into the six-yard box for Alonso to nod home.
Alonso should have then doubled his tally but volleyed Alba’s inviting centre wide from close range.
Despite Gavi limping off early in the second half with a back injury, Barca continued to dominate the contest.
However, their wastefulness was punished when Joselu calmly rolled home from 12 yards after he was tripped by Alonso in the box.
Barca’s frustrations were evident and they were reduced to 10 men when Alba was shown a second yellow card for dissent.
Souza soon followed for a cynical foul, while Leandro Cabrera’s straight red for appearing to kick Robert Lewandowski was surprisingly overturned as the eccentric Lahoz took centre stage.
Fernandez then drew the focus, making two vital late saves to secure Espanyol an unlikely point.
What does it mean? Unlucky 13 for Barca
Though now unbeaten in 25 LaLiga meetings with Espanyol, Barcelona were denied a 13th successive home victory over their local rivals.
Diego Martinez’s side became only the fourth team to breach the Blaugrana in the Spanish top flight this term, after Real Sociedad, Real Madrid and Osasuna.
A bittersweet day for Alba
Alba reached another milestone as he became only the 12th player to make 300 LaLiga appearances for Barca.
However, it was a game to forget for the veteran full-back, who received his marching orders late on after taking his frustrations too far with the referee.
Joselu steps up
The Espanyol striker had to be patient with Barcelona dominating large periods of the contest.
He stood up at the vital moment, however, coolly placing the penalty for his eighth goal of the season, a figure bettered by no other Spanish player in LaLiga.
Both sides are in Copa del Rey action next week with Barcelona facing Intercity on Wednesday, the day after Espanyol take on Celta Vigo. The Blaugrana then face Atletico Madrid in LaLiga four days later.