Bojan Kric scored twice Saturday as an under-strength Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 to go top in the Spanish league, at least until Real Madrid plays.
Barcelona moved three points clear of Madrid, which plays Racing Santander on Sunday.
Barcelona's Jeffren Suarez scored in the 25th minute, side-footing in at the far post from Eric Abidal's pass.
Krkic scored from a turnover in the 40th, and found the net again in the 59th.
Messi hit the target in the 67th for his first goal in four games and his 35th overall in all competitions.
Athletic's Markel Susaeta scored in the 77th.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola rested several regulars ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal against Arsenal, which is level at 2-2.