Leo Messi returned to crown Barcelona's 2-0 win over 10-man Girona ? re-establishing the champions' five-point lead at LaLiga's summit.
Nelson Semedo score first goal after nine minutes at Estadi Montilivi but, four days on from a 2-0 loss to Sevilla in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final, Ernesto Valverde's side were far from their fluent best.
Indeed, immediately after Bernardo Espinosa's red card for two bookable offences early in the second half, Girona continued to create the better chances and Barca were indebted to the heroics of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi came off the bench with last weekend's 3-1 win over Leganes in the balance and sat out the trip to Sevilla, but was at the heart of most of Barcelona's best attacks against their fellow Catalans and sealed victory with a delightful 68th-minute goal.
The opening goal came a touch against the run of play as Semedo swiped home a loose ball in the Girona box left-footed.
It should have been 2-0 in the 16th minute but Philippe Coutinho shot tamely at Yassine Bounou's boot on the end of a majestic Messi throughball.
Ter Stegen saved from Cristhian Stuani before Pique cleared Pere Pons' follow-up off the line three minutes before half-time.
The Ter Stegen-Stuani dual would be repeated either side of Espinosa's needless second booking for a 52nd-minute foul on Luis Suarez, with the Germany international coming out on top each time.
Sergio Busquets ? already booked and out of Barca's next LaLiga match against Valencia ? made a goal-saving tackle on Aleix Garcia with no margin for error.
It was left to Messi to settle the nerves as he knocked Jordi Alba's pass out of his feet to draw Bounou and lift a finish beyond the Girona keeper, who later repstored some pride with a brilliant point-blank stop from the Argentine maestro.