The visitors had gone into a shock lead after half an hour when Miguel de Las Cuevas scored from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos had ended a wonderful run by Oscar Trejo by handling inside the area.
Gonzalo Higuain levelled matters seven minutes later with a free header at the back post and Cristiano Ronaldo finally made all Real’s pressure in the second half count 15 minutes from time when he powered home Angel di Maria’s cross.
Roberto Canella was then sent off for the visitors for a second bookable offence and the hosts wrapped up all three points when Mesut Ozil’s exquisite through-ball was slotted home by Karim Benzema to ensure Real extend their lead at the top to seven points ahead of Barcelona’s trip to Levante this evening.
Although firmly marooned in the bottom three, Sporting had caused a huge surprise when they won at the Bernabeu last season to end Jose Mourinho’s nine-year unbeaten run in home league matches and Real struggled to get going again in the early stages.
Sporting were first to threaten as Trejo capitalised on an error by Alvaro Arbeloa but he shot straight at Iker Casillas when through on goal and the Spanish captain was able to make an easy save.
Eight minutes later though the league leaders were behind when after a mazy run from Trejo past two desperate Real challenges, Ramos slid in and palmed the ball away from the midfielder’s feet with his trailing hand.
De las Cuevas confidently stepped up and his spot-kick down the middle of the goal was too good for Casillas.
Tensions then flared on the sidelines as Jose Mourinho squared up to one of the Sporting substitutes after they released an extra ball on to the pitch and the Portuguese coach was not any happier moments later as Canella was extremely fortunate not to see a second yellow card for a foul on Arbeloa.
Real were level eight minutes before the break though as Canella let Ramos’ cross float over his head and Higuain stole in to head home his 21st league goal of the season.
Nuri Sahin had been handed a rare start in the absence of the suspended Xabi Alonso and nearly handed the hosts a half-time lead as his free-kick clipped the top of the bar on 44 minutes.
Mourinho introduced Di Maria and Benzema for Sahin and Jose Maria Callejon at the break and the two nearly combined for the go-ahead goal three minutes later as the Frenchman headed Di Maria’s free-kick towards goal but Pablo comfortably held on.
Ronaldo pulled an effort just wide from outside the area and the natives were beginning to get restless when Higuain missed a glorious chance to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes to go as he fired narrowly wide from Ronaldo’s cute reverse pass.
However they only had to wait a further four minutes as Di Maria’s cross from the left was met with a fine header from the Portuguese and despite Pablo’s best efforts the ball went in off the post.
Canella was eventually dismissed with 11 minutes remaining for a late challenge on Di Maria and it took Real just three minutes to make their mad advantage count as Ozil’s wonderful through-ball found Benzema free inside the area and his shot across Pablo gave the keeper no chance.