Barcelona closed the gap on Real Madrid to two points with a 4-2 win over Valencia in the Spanish first division on Sunday.
Valencia took a shock lead on 29 minutes when Eliaquim Mangala headed a corner past Barcelona keeper Marc Andre ter Stegen but Luis Suarez equalized on 35 minutes scoring from Neymar’s quickly taken throw.
Mangala undid all his good work pulling Suarez back in the area; conceding a penalty and getting himself sent off in the process.
Messi scored the spot-kick with what was his 40th goal in all competitions this season.
It was his eighth consecutive season scoring 40 goals and he had done it in just 40 games but the penalty did not finish off Valencia.
Munir El Haddadi scored in injury time of the first half to make it 2-2. The striker is on loan from Barcelona and has scored against them twice this season.
Messi made it 3-2 on 53 minutes from Andres Iniesta’s pass having wriggled clear of substitute Aymen Abdennour.
Neymar hit the crossbar with a free-kick and both Messi and Suarez went close before Andre Gomes tapped in the fourth with a minute left.
Valencia coach Voro Gonzalez said: “We had some good counter attacks in the second half and it could have finished 3-3.
“It’s very difficult with 10-men here but we gave it everything in spite of the circumstances.”
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said: “We created a lot of chances against a team that sat back and defended in numbers.
“For me the best thing about tonight was for Andre Gomes to score. I think he is going to be a very important player for Barcelona in the future.
“I think the Barcelona supporters will back him and I have no doubts about his potential to succeed here.”
Asked about Messi’s record of scoring 40 goals in eight successive seasons he added: “The records that he has set are not in the reach of anyone else.”
Earlier a spectacular Antoine Griezmann free-kick was the pick of the goals as Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1.
The win means Diego Simeone’s side move to just two points behind third-placed Sevilla ahead of the international break.
Diego Godin opened the scoring on 37 minutes heading in Griezmann’s free-kick.
Then Griezmann scored direct from a set-piece with a powerful drive that crashed in off the underside of Sergio Rico’s crossbar.
Koke tapped-in the third after Rico had parried Juanfran’s cross into his path. The outstanding Griezmann had also been involved in the build-up.
The defeat means Sevilla’s miserable March goes on. They have suffered Champions League exit and failed to win any of their last three in La Liga this month.
They did manage a late consolation goal when Joaquin Correa scored five minutes from time.
Atletico Madrid lost full-back Sime Vrsaljko in the first minute with a sprained right knee but they did welcome back Fernando Torres who came on as a second half substitute.
It was his first appearance since he suffered concussion after a clash of heads against Deportivo at the start of the month.
“There is a lot of frustration and I have to find a solution so that we can get back the authentic Sevilla,” said coach Jorge Sampaoli after the defeat.
An upbeat Diego Simeone said: “Sevilla are having a magnificent season and that makes this result even more significant.
“Since the start of the year we have been improving. We are better defensively and playing with more balance.
“The team is better but we have to stay grounded. We have ten finals left to play.”
Atletico Madrid captain Gabi added: “These are three vital points for our objective of taking third place but we have a long way to go.”
Sevilla’s Mariano lamented: “We have lost today but we are still third so we have to keep going.
“We know how strong they are at home and I think the Champions League did take its toll on us but that is history now and we have to keep going.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Leganes drew 0-0 with Malaga, Deportivo were beaten 1-0 by Celta Vigo and Sporting Gijon beat relegation rivals Granada 3-1.