Real Madrid's lost ground on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as their five-game winning streak in the competition came grinding to a halt in a 1-1 draw with Elche.
Luka Modric scored his third league goal of the season to give Zinedine Zidane's men the lead after 20 minutes as Madrid attacked freely while leaving some dangerous gaps at the back.
Elche created numerous good chances before equalising from the penalty spot, Fidel converting after Dani Carvajal's blatant foul on Antonio Barragan.
The result put a dampener on the feel-good factor Zidane had managed to generate around his club after bouncing back from a slow start to the season, with Atletico two points clear at the summit having beaten Getafe 1-0 earlier on Wednesday.
Toni Kroos headed narrowly wide from 10 yards in the third minute as Madrid started brightly but it was not long before Thibaut Courtois – making his 100th appearance for the club – had to get down smartly to parry Emiliano Rigoni's fierce drive away from the corner of his net.
Play swung from end to end and Marcelo shook the crossbar with a rasping half-volley from the edge of the Elche box in the 13th minute.
Moments later Modric gave Madrid the lead, sending a header into the top-right corner after Edgar Badia palmed Marco Asensio's thunderous shot onto the crossbar.
Madrid were awarded a penalty only for VAR to show that the ball hit Ivan Marcone's leg and not his hand, and six minutes into the second half Elche won a spot-kick of their own when Carvajal pulled down Barragan.
Fidel buried the penalty into the bottom-left corner of the net and 10 minutes later Lucas Boye grazed the outside of the post with a low shot from the edge of the Madrid box.
Boye fired high and wide when he burst through the ranks of Madrid defenders again and Carvajal missed a chance to atone for his error when Badia saved his close-range effort on the counter.
The returning Eden Hazard missed the only opening that came his way and Carvajal conceded a stoppage-time free-kick from which Gonzalo Verdu drew a fine save from Courtois, who parried away the last kick of the game to ensure the points were shared.
What does it mean? No more room for complacency at Madrid
Victories over Sevilla, Atletico, Athletic Bilbao, Eibar and Granada put a spring back in Zidane's step going into this game, but sloppy defending suggested his players underestimated Elche.
Jorge Almiron's side, who could climb as high as ninth if they win their game in hand, may be winless in their past nine LaLiga games, but this was the first time in nine top-flight meetings with Madrid that they managed to avoid defeat.
Modric makes Madrid tick
The return of Modric restored a fluency to Madrid's attacking play, and he contributed two efforts on goal – including the one that went in – as well as making the third most touches of any player.
Aside from conceding the penalty in clumsy fashion, Carvajal struggled to deal with the threat of Fidel and Boye, conceding possession 18 times – more than any other player on the pitch.
Key Opta Facts
- Modric scored his first header after for Real Madrid after 364 games in all competitions.
- Madrid have hit the woodwork 18 times in all competitions this season (0.81 per game), more than any other team from the top five European Leagues.
- Asensio has successfully completed 39 out of 40 passes versus Elche, 32 of them in the opposition half (97.5 per cent), his third best league tally for Madrid.
- Zidane have won against 26 of his 28 LaLiga opponents as Madrid boss. He is only winless versus Cadiz and Elche.
Elche's first game of 2021 sees them travel to Athletic on Sunday, while Madrid are in action at home against Celta Vigo a day earlier.