Antoine Griezmann felt Atletico Madrid turned in a poor derby day performance against Real Madrid before Cristiano Ronaldo's goal at the Santiago Bernabeu shocked them into action.
Griezmann netted for the third season in succession in the fixture to snatch a 1-1 draw for Diego Simeone's men, converting when Keylor Navas saved from Vitolo in the 57th minute – only four minutes on from Ronaldo volleying Madrid ahead.
It was a lead Zinedine Zidane's men merited after they had the better of a first half in which Toni Kroos had a strong penalty appeal rejected and Marcelo hit the crossbar.
But Griezmann's goal briefly turned the contest on its head, with the Madrid defence reeling and Koke almost putting the visitors ahead.
Atleti are now unbeaten in five top-flight trips across town and remain four points ahead of their neighbours in second.
Asked whether his team-mates were the players happier with a point, France forward Griemzann replied: "Well, yes, but we wanted to win.
"We knew we'd have to play better in the second half and we did."
Discussing the reaction to Ronaldo's strike, Griezmann struggled to hide his overall frustration.
"It meant that we weren't playing well before that," he added.
"I think we started to turn the screw a little bit on them after their goal."
Barcelona have an 11-point lead over Atleti at LaLiga's summit with seven games of the season remaining.