The Brazilian scored twice after half-time - including a spectacular third - and Luis Suarez was also on the score sheet as Luis Enrique's side recorded a comfortable home winNeymar and Luis Suarez made light of Lionel Messi's absence once again by inspiring Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Villarreal with three second-half goals.
Usually the supporting cast to the Argentine in the Barca front three, Neymar and Suarez have been in irresistible form since Messi picked up a knee injury last month.
And the deadly duo were at it again at Camp Nou on Sunday, scoring once each before Neymar grabbed a spectacular third to move Luis Enrique's side at least temporarily three points clear of Real Madrid.
Their title rivals face Sevilla away from home on Sunday evening.
Only Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid had conceded fewer league goals this season than Villarreal prior to kick-off, and Marcelino's men showed plenty of gritty defensive organisation in the first half to keep Barca at bay.
But, somewhat inevitably, Neymar and Suarez came to the fore after the break, with the former breaking the deadlock after an hour with an unerring finish before the latter made sure of the points from the penalty spot nine minutes later.
Neymar then capped off the convincing win with a brilliant flick and volley from a Suarez pass.
After a quiet start, Barca gradually wrested control away from a confident Villarreal and Dani Alves saw a well-struck volley deflected wide for a corner in the 18th minute as the pressure on the visitors' goal began to mount.
Jeremy Mathieu was next to go close when a lightning counter from Barca ended with Suarez slipping a pass into the path of the marauding French defender, only for his powerful low shot to be well saved from Alphonse Areola.
But for all their territorial dominance, Luis Enrique's team had Claudio Bravo to thank for keeping them level at half-time when the Chilean made a superb save from Samu Castillejo's close-range effort just before the break.
Both Suarez and Neymar were cautioned for dissent shortly after the restart as Barca's frustrations grew, before Alves forced Areola into action once again from Neymar's pinpoint cross.
The hosts finally took the lead on the hour mark and it was Neymar who made the breakthrough.
Match Stats — Team Stats
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 3 100%0% 0
- Total Shots (including blocked shots)
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 20 80%20% 5
- Shots On Target
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 9 81.8%18.2% 2
- Blocked Shots
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 3 75%25% 1
- Shots from outside the box
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 3 50%50% 3
- Shots from inside the box
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 17 89.5%10.5% 2
- Shot Accuracy (excluding blocked shots)
Barcelona Comparison Villarreal 52.9% 51.4%48.6% 50%
Sergio Busquets intercepted a wayward pass around 40 yards from goal before feeding the Brazilian, who took one touch before coolly slotting his 10th league goal of the season beyond Areola at the goalkeeper's near post.
Suarez got in on the act soon after. Munir El Haddadi was crudely brought down in the area by Jaume Costa and Neymar unselfishly opted to hand penalty duties to his team-mate, who sent Areola the wrong way for his sixth goal in his last four appearances.
But Neymar saved the best for last. Suarez played a low ball in from the left, and the Brazil captain produced an audacious flick over the head of a hapless Villarreal defender before spinning and volleying past Areola.
The emphatic victory will see Barca go into the eagerly anticipated Clasico against Madrid on November 21 full of confidence.