Xavi's wonderful freekick gave Barcelona a vital 1-0 win away at Granada, in a match which saw the home side reduced to nine men and Barcelona extend their imperious defensive record to seven games in all competitions without conceding a single goal.
Barcelona went into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw at home to Sevilla and were hoping to return to winning ways against struggling new boys Granada who were lurking in the relegation zone of the La Liga table.
Pep Guardiola once again decided to experiment with his tactics and line-up, giving a first league start to academy product Isaac Cuenca in place of David Villa, whilst also introducing to Maxwell, Cesc Fàbregas and Sergio Busquets into the side.
Guardiola knew that three points were a must after seeing his side slip behind both overachieving Levante and arch rivals Real Madrid in the La Liga standings; the team started in typical fashion, dominating the possession in the early stages and forcing Granada deep into their own half.
Lionel Messi, hoping to redeem himself for his last-gasp penalty miss against Sevilla had the first opportunity, collecting the ball from Pedro on the right-hand side of the box, jinking past a defender with some clever footwork before sending a beautiful curling left-footed effort that just evaded the far post.
Barcelona continued to press and Isaac Cuenca almost marked his first competitive start with a goal but his finessed effort from the left side of the penalty box could not find the far corner after he had cut inside from the left flank. Xavi's long-range swerving effort almost caught Granada goalkeeper Fernandez off-guard but Barcelona failed to create any clear-cut chances in the opening stages as Granada's defensive unit was operating in an organised, efficient fashion.
Pedro should have done better from Dani Alves's teasing floated cross but Barcelona's attacking trio were being well-contained from Granada's backline.
Step forward Xavi Hernández. With the game retreating into a dull affair, the midfield maestro produced a moment of pure genius in the 33rd minute to bring the game to life. Picking himself up after having been fouled about 30 yards out, the Spanish international bent a sublime freekick over the wall and into the left-hand side of the net, giving Fernandez no chance. It was the perfect way to celebrate his 392nd league game for the club; a club record for the most La Liga appearances. A fantastic and deserved moment for a wonderful servant to both club and country.
As the teams returned to the changing rooms at the break, Guardiola was satisfied with his side's lead but had perhaps anticipated a more convincing opening 45 minutes. Barcelona had lacked their typically slick passing and had mustered few genuine chances but their solid defence was once again pivotal to their display.
Things got worse for Granada only eight minutes into the second half when Jaime Romero was dismissed for a second bookable offence after catching Maxwell with a high foot and in truth it looked a harsh decision with the midfielder's eyes clearly focused on the ball.
Barcelona should have doubled their lead when Fernandez's goalkick was horribly miscued, allowing David Villa to feed in Lionel Messi for a one-on-one. The Argentine sensation flicked the ball over the advancing goalkeeper only to see defender Diego Mainz sprint back towards his goal and perform an outrageous goal-line clearance to keep his side's chances of grabbing an equaliser alive.
Isaac Cuenca had a good chance to wrap up the points for Barcelona late on after being played in by Xavi but his sidefooted effort was well-saved by Fernandez. The young forward will not have many better chances to open his account for the club. David Villa was also found guilty of spurning a good opportunity after he blazed over the bar from the edge of the box after Messi had spread the ball out wide.
To further compound Granada's misery, Dani Benitez, on loan from Udinese, was shown a second yellow card for booting the ball away in aggression, venting his anger when the linesman showed the offside flag and clearly of the opinion that he had sprung the offside trap.
Barcelona had made hard work of their lowly opponents but they had their treasured three points. Xavi will deservedly receive the plaudits and the Spanish midfielder feels that his side still need to improve if they are going to claim a fourth consecutive La Liga title.
"It was a complicated game and we could not finish it off in the second half," the 31 year-old said. "Granada never had a shot on goal, but then we never scored a second goal. It was a good game, but we missed getting the goal which would have offered us more tranquillity on the pitch...In general we did well, but there are still areas that we can improve."
Their performance had not contained any of their usual swagger and class but it resulted in an important three points that ensure that Barcelona keep up the pressure at the top of the table and maintain their unbeaten start to the season.