MADRID - Lionel Messi smashed through the 300-goal mark with a brace as Barcelona crushed Rayo Vallecano 5-0 in Madrid on Saturday to go three points clear at the top of La Liga.
David Villa, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas got the other goals to put the pressure back onto second-placed Atletico Madrid who entertain Osasuna on Sunday.
Messi's goals were the 300th and 301st of his career, a total made up of 270 for Barca and 31 for Argentina in only 419 matches.
They also took him to 13 in the league this season and 73 in all competitions in 2012.
That's just two behind Pele's 75 for Santos and Brazil in 1959, and only 12 shy of Gerd Mueller's all-time best calendar year record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.
Rayo were pressuring the Catalans and it took until the 19th minute for Barca to have their first shot when Messi drove wide.
However, a minute later, Barcelona were ahead when Fabregas picked up a loose ball and played in Villa who finished first time with his right foot.
Messi went close with a curled free-kick and as a hard fought first-half drew to a close Andrija Delibasic forced Victor Valdes into a save at the other end.
Within two minutes of the restart, Messi had doubled the lead when Martin Montoya pulled the ball back for the little Argentine who steered it first time into the top right corner.
Javi Fuego hit a rasping left footed drive that Valdes pushed wide and Jordi Amat tried his luck from distance as the home side looked for a quick way back into the match.
Xavi and Fabregas put the game beyond reach before Messi added a fifth two minutes from time.
Earlier in-form Malaga were held to a 0-0 draw at struggling Espanyol.