Substitute Neymar and Jordi Alba earlier came to the rescue with second-half goals to give Barcelona a 2-1 comeback victory at Almeria but Lionel Messi again just missed out in his bid to become La Liga’s all-time leading marksman.
Wales winger Gareth Bale netted the opener in his first start after injury when he swept in a Kroos cross after 10 minutes to put Real on track for a victory which puts them on 27 points from 11 games, two more than Barcelona in second.
Sergio Ramos knocked in from a corner after 40 minutes to add to Real鈥檚 lead but neighbours Rayo pulled a goal back minutes later when Leo Baptistao seized on a poor backpass by James Rodriguez and set up Alberto Bueno to score.
Cristiano Ronaldo fed Germany World Cup winner Kroos for a precise finish from 20 metres and then the Portuguese found Karim Benzema to slot home.
Ronaldo as ever was on the scoresheet, wrapping up the win with a tame effort which slipped through the hands of goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez, but for once the world player of the year was upstaged.
“Kroos was the best player on the pitch and he got his first goal,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference about the midfielder signed from Bayern Munich in the close season.
“I am surprised at how good he is. He scored in a counter-attack and has the freedom to get forward. When he goes up (Luka) Modric stays back, they work well together.
“I think it is important the work-rate of the forwards, above all defensively and that is what the team needs. They all did well and it is no surprise that Bale or Cristiano scored.”
Bale, who came on as a substitute in Tuesday鈥檚 Champions League win over Liverpool after a month out with a muscle strain, looked sharp and also hit the crossbar with a 25-metre volley.
Real are now two shy of the club鈥檚 record run of 15 consecutive wins achieved jointly by Miguel Munoz鈥檚 1960-61 team and by Jose Mourinho鈥檚 in 2011-12.
With another unconvincing performance after two straight defeats in La Liga, Barca coach Luis Enrique was left relieved to stop the rot, especially after his surprise decision to start with both Neymar and Luis Suarez on the bench.
Both men were eventually to play a key role in the victory after Enrique’s plan had looked as if could backfire when Almeria took the lead in the 37th minute as Thievy Bifouma broke clear on the counter-attack and finished clinically.
When the South American strike pair came on after the break, the complexion of the game changed, with, first, Suarez hitting the bar as he sought to score his first goal for the club and then both he and Neymar combining for the equaliser.
After the Uruguayan’s cross in the 73rd minute was met at close range by his Brazilian team mate, Alba then bundled home the second from another Suarez pass eight minutes from the end.
Messi hit the crossbar in either half as the pressure seems to be building on him to equal Telmo Zarra’s La Liga scoring record of 251 goals.
The Argentine remains a goal short of the former Athletic Bilbao striker, having experienced the rare feeling of not having scored in his last three league games.
“With the problems that Almeria caused us along with our own mistakes and lack of rhythm, the best thing is the result,” Barca coach Luis Enrique told reporters.
“Still we turned the game around and in order to have success you have to win even when you don鈥檛 play well like today.”
A penalty from Nordin Amrabat in the 89th minute gave seventh-placed Malaga a 2-1 victory over Eibar.
Mikel Arruabarrena put Eibar ahead before the break and Juanmi struck after 52 minutes to put Malaga back on track.
There were chances for either side but late on Raul Navas handled the ball in the area and was given a second
yellow card, while Amrabat held his nerve from the spot.
Elsewhere, Getafe drew 0-0 with Elche and it was also 0-0 between Celta Vigo and Granada.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)