Barcelona won their ninth Liga game out of 10 by scraping a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in a shaky game in which they were as grateful to Marc-Andre ter Stegen as they were to Lionel Messi.
Messi started and finished the move for the opening goal after somehow hitting the post with a gaping goal in front of him, but Barca could have been a couple of goals down by that point had it not been for the heroics of their German goalkeeper.
Paulinho gave an extra shine to the victory with a tap-in in injury time, but the result was no reflection on how the game played out, as Barca rode their luck throughout.
Barca again showed their newfound steel under Ernesto Valverde in picking up a win they barely deserved in their second-toughest away trip so far. They have their best points total after 10 games since the 2013-14 season.
In terms of performances, Paulinho is growing with confidence and is developing a good understanding with Messi, while Sergio Busquets, in addition to ter Stegen, gave the type of performance you need when you are up against it at San Mames.
Barca fans will not need reminding that the last time they took 28 points from their first 10 games was when Tata Martino was in charge. We all know how that campaign ended, and there is a danger that the team could start to stagnate in a not-too-distant future if they do not improve their overall play and continue to rely on Messi.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Ernesto Valverde said he felt strange being in the opposition dugout at his beloved San Mames. His starting lineup was odd in that it contained Andre Gomes, hardly a player you want to call on in such difficult surroundings. The Portugal national gave another shy display, failing to give any support to Busquets. Valverde made only one substitution, swapping Gomes for Nelson Semedo with seven minutes remaining.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 9 -- The German is used to playing a periphery role most weeks but had to take centre stage at San Mames, a ground he has suffered at in the past. He produced a phenomenal display, making four saves, all from the usually deadly Aritz Aduriz.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Looked more comfortable when he played in his natural position of central midfield after Semedo came on.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- Lost several battles and looked off the pace at several stages of the game. After a fourth booking of the season he is one more yellow card away from a suspension.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 8 -- Compensated for Pique's shaky display with a commanding performance, blocking everything that came his way, which was a lot.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- Continues to play with far more freedom and confidence going forward than we saw last year and has a particularly good understanding with Messi of late, playing a one-two with the Argentine for the goal. Was slightly suspect at the back, however, playing Aduriz onside in the first half. Fortunately for him the veteran striker failed to beat ter Stegen.
MF Paulinho, 7 -- Was one of Barca's most active attackers, playing in an advanced role for most of the game and constantly looking to link up with Messi and Luis Suarez. Should have done better when he clanged the crossbar from Messi's layoff but got his goal in the end.
MF Sergio Busquets, 8 -- Was given little support from his fellow midfielders and had to fight against Bilbao's army of forwards on his own, which he was more than able to do.
MF Andre Gomes, 4 -- A surprise choice for such a demanding game and yet again he came up short, leaving Busquets isolated and offering very little going forward either.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- A near anonymous display from the Croatian, who is having a mediocre campaign. His only notable contribution was a scuffed shot straight at Athletic goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Once again far and away the best player on the pitch, directing the play from deep one moment, carving Athletic open the next. Somehow contrived to miss from yards out after leaving Kepa stranded on the floor with a waltz in the area but made amends by starting and finishing the move for the goal. Could have got an assist for his dash down the right and tee up to Paulinho, who instead blasted against the bar.
DF Nelson Semedo (for Gomes), NR -- Slotted in at right-back for the final seven minutes, shunting Sergi Roberto up into midfield.