Lionel Messi scored for a ninth consecutive match, but his latest double on Saturday was only enough to earn Barcelona a 2-2 draw against Valencia.
After their stunning comeback against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey midweek, Barca looked destined to notch another win, but Valencia had other ideas in a breathless contest at the Camp Nou.
Messi’s 20th and 21st league goals of the season left Barca six points clear of Atletico Madrid, who could cut the gap to three by beating Real Betis on Sunday, with Real Madrid, 11 points back, at home to Alaves.
Valencia deserved their first-half lead and could have scored sooner, Parejo drawing a smart save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen before Denis Cheryshev lashed the rebound off the far post.
Barca were then denied a free-kick as Messi was bundled over by Parejo, and this proved key, with Valencia sprawling forward on the counter-attack.
Rodrigo carried the ball 40 yards before slipping a cute reverse pass behind Vermaelen for Kevin Gameiro to drill home superbly.
Valencia got a penalty after Sergi Roberto shoved Daniel Wass in the back, with Parejo whipping the ball into the corner to make it two.
Barca looked shell-shocked but the third goal in 15 minutes was theirs. Semedo beat Toni Lato to Arturo Vidal’s pass and tumbled after a clip on his shin. Messi slammed the loose ball into the top corner but the whistle had blown. He rolled in the penalty instead.
On a rare Valencia break in the 63rd minute, Rodrigo should have made it three but, on the stretch, put it over from six yards.
A minute later, Barcelona were level. Vidal teed up Messi, who teed up his own left foot and curled a stunning shot inside the post.
The teams, and the crowd seemed to take a breath in anticipation of a late push, but it never came as both sides settled for a deserved draw.