Sergio Busquets admitted Barcelona had to dig deep to secure a 2-0 win away at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Lionel Messi's 12th goal in 10 LaLiga games gave the Catalans a deserved lead at the break but the visitors failed to produce a repeat performance in the second half, leaving them to rely on Marc-Andre ter Stegen to stay ahead.
Having denied Aritz Aduriz twice in the first half, the German goalkeeper produced a stunning save to keep out a near-post header from the Athletic striker in the closing minutes, preserving Barca's narrow lead at San Mames.
Paulinho's injury-time tap-in wrapped up the result on the road, as visiting coach Ernesto Valverde enjoyed a successful return to his former club.
"They made us work, particularly in the second half," Busquets told Movistar.
"The goals were vital for us. In the second half they were better, they raised their game. We had to be much more precise with our passing and our use of the ball, but we won 2-0.
"Whether it's spectacular or not, our run continues. It certainly wasn't easy, this is a great place with good players.
"They pressed us and we felt the pressure. It was difficult to break through their lines, we did it, but not enough."
Athletic also hit the woodwork after the interval, Raul Garcia sending a header from a corner against the bar, as they failed to score against Barca for a fifth straight league meeting.
"We had three or four super chances to put ourselves ahead but we didn't take them and they do what they do and scored," Athletic midfelder Ander Iturraspe told Movistar.
"We kept making chance after chance, Ter Stegen did very well. 2-0 is just what happens when you get played on the break.
"It has been difficult over the last few weeks but we have to think who we were playing. We can be proud of the performance - we did our jobs."