MADRID - Barcelona took another step towards their fourth La Liga title in five years as a hat-trick from Cesc Fabregas guided them to a 5-0 win over Mallorca on Saturday.
Fabregas started up front in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi and made a welcome return to form as he also played a part in Barca's other two goals, scored by Alexis Sanchez, as the Catalans restored their 13-point lead at the top of the table.
However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Eric Abidal as he made his first appearance in 14 months after undergoing a liver transplant.
The Frenchman replaced Gerard Pique with 21 minutes remaining to a rapturous reception from the Camp Nou crowd and coped comfortably with Mallorca's limited threat going forward.
Any doubts over whether Barca would be able to cope without Messi against the league's bottom side were quickly dispelled by two goals in a two-minute spell midway through the first half.
A lovely one-two between Alexis and Fabregas played in the latter to open the scoring before the Chilean made it 2-0 after Dudu Aouate had parried Fabregas' shot.
The same two players combined for another two goals before the break as Fabregas side-footed home his second of the evening on 37 minutes before releasing Alexis with a fine pass over the top for the former-Udinese forward to grab his brace.
And it took the Spanish international just a minute after the break to seal his first hat-trick for the club as this time he latched onto Andres Iniesta's pass before turning and firing low past Aouate.
With the game well won, manager Tito Vilanova then withdrew Iniesta, Fabregas and Pique with an eye to Wednesday's Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain.