Ronaldo salvages Real point from Madrid derby
Karim Benzema had fired Real into a third minute lead when he converted Angel di Maria's cross.
However, despite being denied what appeared a penalty when Sergio Ramos seemed to trip Diego Costa, Atletico were in front by half-time thanks to fine strikes by Koke and Gabi.
Another turned down penalty appeal for a foul on Costa saw Atletico assistant boss Mono Burgos sent to the stands as he tried to confront the referee midway through the second-half.
And Atletico were left to feel hard done by when Ronaldo spun on the edge of the box to drill home a late equaliser.
A point for both sides means Real remain three points clear of Atletico but Barcelona can move to within a point of Los Blancos should they beat Almeria later on Sunday.
"I think we can leave here reinforced, we have drawn a game in which we were losing," said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.
"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 captain Gabi was understandably left enraged as his side missed out on a possible return to the top of the table.
"I leave with a bad taste in my mouth," he told Spanish TV channel Canal Plus.
"It was a very open game with chances for both teams but I am proud of Atletico Madrid.
"We wanted to offer this intensity and desire to the fans and I think that is what we did."
Ancelotti's men came into the game full of confidence after thrashing Schalke 6-1 on their return to Champions League action in midweek and took just three minutes to open the scoring.
A short corner from the right was worked back to Di Maria and his in-swinging cross was slotted home at the back post by Benzema.
The home fans and players were left incensed seven minutes later when Costa seemed to be tripped inside the area by Ramos, but referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro waved away claims for a penalty.
Some of the Atletico players took their protests too far, though, as Arda Turan appeared to push Ferreiro and was lucky to only receive a yellow card.
Atletico were then thankful to Thibaut Courtois for preventing the visitors from doubling their lead twice in quick succession as he saved from Benzema and a near post backheel from Ronaldo.
However, the hosts bossed the latter part of the opening period and were level on 27 minutes when fine work from Turan teed up Koke inside the area to smash a low right-footed drive into the far corner.
Diego Lopez then had to be quick off his line to prevent Costa from a narrow angle moments later.
But the hosts did go in front in spectacular fashion in stoppage time at the end of the half when Gabi collected a short free-kick and fired high into Lopez's top right-hand corner from 35 yards.
Costa had a great chance to make it 3-1 seven minutes after the restart as he raced past Pepe to a long ball over the Real defence, but his weak shot squirmed wide of the target.
At the other end, Benzema was inches away from his second of the afternoon when he volleyed Luca Modric's cross wide.
More controversy was to ensure, though, as Costa appeared to be bundled over inside the area, this time by Alvaro Arbeloa, but rather than pointing to the spot Ferreiro booked Costa for diving.
That led to Burgos having to be visibly restrained from confronting the referee by Atletico players and officials as he was sent to the stands for protesting.
The drama continued as seconds later Courtois had to be alert to parry Gareth Bale's flicked header.
Ronaldo should have levelled 16 minutes from time when he headed wide when unmarked from Dani Carvajal's cross.
However, the Portuguese made amends eight minutes later when he fired home a loose ball from the edge of the area to give Real a share of the spoils.
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