The goal stretched the Catalans' unbeaten run in the league to 37 games and if they avoid defeat next week at home to Leganes they will equal Real Sociedad's Liga record of 38 games without defeat, which has stood since 1980.
That was until Barca boss Ernesto Valverde threw on the talisman as a substitute for Ousmane Dembele in the 58th minute.
Valverde says he always meant to get the 30-year-old involved against Sevilla but admits his match-saving cameo came despite him not being fully recovered.
"Messi is always being compared with Maradona", he told Folha de Sao Paulo reporters. "But we think it will be fine". And it was Sevilla, who started the match on the front foot, creating a couple of half chances in the first five minutes from the left flank before Andres Iniesta went close with a long-range chipped effort after Sergio Rico's poor clearance. They pressed us high.
Madrid's stand-in captain Benzema doubled the advantage from the penalty spot after Lucas Vazquez was fouled before Bale won and converted another spot-kick six minutes into the second half to put Madrid further at ease.
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The Argentinian immediately upped the tempt for the visitors, but it took until the 88th minute for Barca to get one back, via Luis Suarez from a corner.
"They had the chance then to play on the counter-attack and when they did that we had to come back, but you know what can happen".
The match was fought on even terms throughout the first half, with Barcelona looking to dominate but with a combative Sevilla that never made things easy, to the point that it ended the first half with a 1-0 lead following a goal by Franco Vazquez at the 36th minute.
"My ultimate goal is to win the Golden Ball; it's what I want and I'm going to work hard to get there, but I'm still only 18 and have a lot to improve", he said. "We competed until the very end here".