With more protests planned by Catalan campaigners there was increased security all around the stadium and helicopters buzzed overhead before kick-off.
Such were the security concerns, both teams had shared the same hotel before the match.
Thousands of peaceful campaigners protested nearby earlier in the afternoon and throughout the build-up to the game, while a display of Catalonia’s red and yellow colours filled one side of the stadium at kick-off.
A cagey opening in a volatile atmosphere ensued. Bale was back in Real’s starting line-up, while Ivan Rakitic replaced Sergio Busquets in Barcelona’s midfield.
Real’s Zinedine Zidane would have been the happier manager at half-time after his side dominated the opening 45 minutes.
But Alba volleyed the best chance of the first half wide for Barca four minutes before the break following Lionel Messi’s brilliant chipped pass.
Real skipper Sergio Ramos cleared off the goal-line as Casemiro attempted to thwart Messi in the box, while Barca defender Gerard Pique had earlier done likewise from Karim Benzema’s header.
Real maintained their high energy levels at the start of the second period as they continued to hog possession and quickly won the ball back when they lost it.
Despite all Real’s possession, Messi threatened but failed to control Antoine Griezmann’s ball inside the area and then Bale flashed a rising shot just off target at the other end.
Bale thought he had broken the deadlock in the 72nd minute, but the VAR ruled Ferland Mendy was fractionally offside before delivering his pin-point low cross.
Frenkie De Jong’s long-range effort failed to trouble Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Luis Suarez blazed high and wide from inside the area.
The game entered the final 10 minutes on a knife-edge, but chances were still hard to come by in both areas and as the clock ticked down neither side was prepared to risk charging forward.