January transfer target Kepa Arrizabalaga showed Real Madrid what they were missing with a stunning goalkeeping display as Cristiano Ronaldo left it late to snatch a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao.
Inaki Williams stylishly chipped in the opener 14 minutes into a half that saw both sides have chances to score – Ronaldo having hit the crossbar.
The lacklustre feel that has loomed over Madrid's setbacks in LaLiga this season was not present as they laid siege to the Athletic goal, only to find a well-known figure in inspired form.
Kepa was heavily linked with a move to the European champions during the last transfer window but ultimately opted to sign a seven-year contract at San Mames.
The catalogue of stops he made before the break arguably entitle him to even more lucrative terms and Madrid attacked more fitfully in the second period, but Ronaldo's instinctive 87th-minute backheel stole a share of the spoils.
However, Atletico Madrid can move six points clear of their neighbours in second with victory of Real Sociedad on Thursday.
There were opportunities for both sides in an open start to the contest.
Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas thwarted Mikel San Jose at his near post as Williams screamed for the cutback and a tap in, before Ronaldo powered Dani Carvajal's searching right-wing cross against the bar.
Toni Kroos swept a pass into Ronaldo's path on the counter-attack in the 12th minute but Madrid's star forward fired past the far post after cutting in from the left.
But the breakthrough came at the other end as Williams charged on to Inigo Cordoba's perfectly-weighted pass to dispatch a sublime dinked finish over Navas.
Kepa began to revel on the Santiago Bernabeu stage as he kept out Ronaldo's deflected strike low to his right before holding a rasping long-ranger from Marcelo.
Marco Asensio should have extended Kepa again when he blazed wastefully over in the 22nd minute and the 23-year-old showed lightning reactions after the half hour as Raphael Varane glanced Kroos' free-kick goalwards.
Ronaldo was unable to turn home following a mazy run from Lucas Vazquez, with Asensio the next Madrid forward to skip through challenges – forcing the best save from Kepa's bulging body of first-half work.
The hosts did not recover their momentum after the break and they would have fallen further behind had Sergio Ramos not picked Williams' pocket when Raul Garcia won a 56th-minute knockdown.
Referee Juan Martinez Munuera had no interest in awarding a penalty when Ronaldo went down under a 61st-minute challenge from Unai Nunez and Athletic should have compounded Madrid's frustration when Garcia clattered the crossbar after Williams missed his kick from close range and Cordoba had a shot blocked by Carvajal.
22 - Cristiano Ronaldo’s last 12 games for Real Madrid:
vs Real Sociedad
vs Atlético de Madrid
vs Athletic Club.
Rescuer. pic.twitter.com/wDO12TKhSi — OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 18, 2018
Gareth Bale's 69th-minute introduction alongside Isco meant Karim Benzema's goal drought was prolonged and the Wales forward almost brought Zidane's men level, flicking a clever volley wide from Marcelo's cross, while Nunez slid in bravely to deny Ronaldo.
The was a sense of inevitability when Kepa beat Lucas' 87th-minute strike clear but Madrid kept the ball alive and Ronaldo diverted Luka Modric's speculative drive into the bottom corner to spare his team-mates from a sixth loss of their frustrating LaLiga campaign.