Los Blancos claimed a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Wednesday and they produced another resilient display to beat Diego Simeone's men on their own turf for the first time since their meeting at the Vicente Calderon in November 2016.
Atletico conceded twice in a first half at the Wanda for the first time, as Sergio Ramos' penalty added to Casemiro's spectacular opener after Antoine Griezmann had equalised, with a little thanks to VAR.
Madrid looked in control at the back under pressure in the second half and finished off their opponents 16 minutes from time through substitute Bale's landmark goal, before Thomas Partey's late sending off.
A fluid Madrid looked bright in the early stages and deservedly went ahead 16 minutes in – Casemiro producing a brilliant bicycle kick to beat Jan Oblak after Ramos nudged the ball on from a corner.
Atletico responded well and levelled nine minutes later, as Angel Correa contentiously robbed Vinicius Junior and fed Griezmann, who beat the offside trap and slotted through Thibaut Courtois' legs.
But Ramos restored the lead just before the break, confidently dispatching a penalty into the bottom-left corner after Jose Gimenez clumsily tripped Vinicius, with VAR adjudging it to have happened just inside the box.
Atletico thought they had equalised when Alvaro Morata lifted the ball over Courtois and into the net in the 54th minute, but VAR proved he was marginally offside.
And Madrid took full advantage in the 74th minute, as Bale – who replaced Vinicius before the hour mark – raced on to Luka Modric's pass and fired across Oblak into the bottom-right corner.
Atletico's fate was sealed with 10 minutes remaining when Thomas received a second booking for catching Toni Kroos.
What does it mean? Madrid finding their stride – Barca beware
Not only did Madrid deserve their victory, the manner of the win was particularly impressive. At times, Atletico looked rattled and frustrated, a rare sight in LaLiga. Santiago Solari's side could yet end the weekend eight points adrift of Barca, who take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, but they are finding form at the right time. A late title surge could still be on.
Casemiro bounces back
His cameo against Barca on Wednesday was full of errors, but Casemiro was exceptional at the Wanda, tirelessly battling away in midfield and even getting a stunning goal to start things off.
Vocal Gimenez cannot walk the walk
An early flashpoint saw Gimenez give Vinicius a dressing down after feeling he had gone to ground easily in the area, even though the Brazilian did not appeal for a penalty. A little later, the winger left Atletico's centre-back in his wake and then lured him into giving away a spot-kick. It was a day to forget for the defender.
Key Opta Facts
- Ramos made his 599th appearance for Madrid in all competitions and his 414th LaLiga appearance for the club.
- Ramos has scored 11 goals in all competitions this season, his best scoring record in a single campaign in his career.
- Madrid have won five league games in a row for the first time since August 2017 (seven).
- Casemiro's goal was the quickest Atletico have conceded in all competitions at the Wanda Metropolitano
- Atletico's haul of 44 points at this stage of the season is their worst record in a single LaLiga campaign under Simeone.