Former Real manager Manuel Pelligrini appeared to get his tactics right for most of the game as his expensively-assembled side frustrated Real in possession.
Malaga's greatest fault was their habit of looking for an additional pass and a reluctance to shoot; several good chances came to little and when Real took the lead it appeared as though the away side would rue their poor decision making.
It was the 35th minute when the home side went ahead when Cristiano Ronaldo cut inside from the left wing and curled a delightful cross towards Karim Benzema which the French striker headed in with ease.
Malaga's goalkeeper, Willy Caballero, was probably the game’s best player but in this instance was dragged out of position by Ronaldo's delivery, leaving Benzema with the simple task of ensuring his header need only be on target.
Given the prolific nature of Real's form this season that looked likely to be the point at which the league leaders gradually sailed into a comfortable lead but a combination of fine goalkeeping from Caballero, defending from Nacho Monreal and Real’s profligate finishing ensured that would not be the case.
Benzema, the most wasteful of Real's usually frightening frontline, was guilty of both missing the target and inhibiting his teammates' play while Jose Callejon should also have scored.
However, Malaga’s continued inability to provide a serious goal threat was so great that Real manager Jose Mourinho felt comfortable enough to remove the impressive Kaka.
For their part, Malaga's frontline continued to work hard and make the right runs but the final touch or ball continued to elude. Even substitute Ruud van Nistelrooy, returning to the club he was once so prolific, remained ineffective.
As the game entered its final stages, Real began to play for what appeared to be their inevitable victory; time was wasted and the defender Pepe was booked in the process. Malaga, however, were gifted one final chance with a free-kick from shooting range in stoppage time.
The final whistle soon followed, leaving Mourinho a clearly frustrated figure. Some of the momentum of recent weeks has been lost with his side far from their best but even though their 10-point lead becomes eight, Real remain firmly in control of La Liga’s title race.