Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti praised his side's reaction to a physical Atletico performance as Cristiano Ronaldo's late equaliser salvaged a point in a heated 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderon.
The draw maintained Real's place at the top of La Liga, but they were thankful to some lenient refereeing from Carlos Delgado Ferreiro who waved away two strong Atletico claims for a penalty.
Karim Beznema had given Real the lead after just three minutes, but Atletico reacted well and, despite their first penalty appeal turned down, were in front before half-time thanks to two fantastic strikes by Koke and Gabi.
Ferreiro then denied the hosts the chance to seal the points when he booked Diego Costa for diving despite the striker appearing to have been brought down by Alvaro Arbeloa and then sent Atletico assistant boss Mono Burgos to the stands for taking his protests too far.
That decision was to prove vital as Ronaldo spun and shot into the far corner eight minutes from time to stretch Real's unbeaten run in all competitions to 28 games.
"A point is a point. We need to take it as it was a difficult game," said Ancelotti.
"We tried to play, but it wasn't easy because Atletico were very tough and it was hard for us to take them out their comfort zone.
"Towards the end it was better because we started to play and had a lot of chances. They wanted to play a more violent game, which is more difficult for us. The only response to that is to play in the style that Real Madrid always do and we did that in the second-half."
A point for both sides leave Real still three points ahead of Atletico, but Barcelona can cut the gap on the leaders to just a point should they beat Almeria on Sunday.
However, Ancelotti insisted he was happy to have overcome one of Real's biggest hurdles with just five of their remaining 12 games to come away from the Santiago Bernabeu.
"I think we can leave here reinforced, we have drawn a game in which we were losing.
"The reaction of the players was good, in general we can be satisfied because Atletico Madrid are a very good team, especially at home.
"We are still three points ahead of them and we are leaders."
Atletico boss Diego Simeone sidestepped numerous questions about the referee's performance, but insisted Los Rojiblancos remain firmly in the title race.
"I always say that the result is what it is. What matters to me is the way in which it comes about and the team showed that it is still alive.
"I don't think (Real) Madrid are the clear favourites because Barcelona will win today and there are still 12 games left, which is a lot. For us to be just three points behind is a very good position to be in."