Victor Valdes failed to hold a dipping strike from Gago and just managed to collect the ball at the second attempt with Raul lurking.
The goalkeeper's uncertainty was typical of his team's performance and it was no surprise when Robben headed home a Guti free-kick at the near post after being allowed to roam completely unmarked in the Barca penalty box.
The free-kick was awarded after Yaya Toure was penalised for a foul on Sergio Ramos, but again Barca could feel aggrieved as there appeared to be minimal contact.
Valdes saved from Guti and Robben, while Raul hit the side netting as Real pushed for a third before the break.
In contrast, Barca, who had replaced Eidur Gudjohnsen with Giovanni after 24 minutes, created little.
Bojan Krkic shot over under pressure from 14 yards while Henry missed with a free-kick.
Barcelona formed a guard of honour before the game
The pattern continued after the break, with Xavi clearing off the line from Mahamadou Diarra before Higuain scored the third.
Higuain, who had been on the pitch 57 seconds, collected a low cross into the box from Diarra before skipping past Puyol and finishing superbly .
The misery continued for Barca, with Valdes denying Marcelo before Van Nistelrooy scored his penalty after being on the field for just over two minutes.
Lionel Messi almost scored after a brilliant jinking run but Iker Casillas made a brilliant fingertip save in a rare flash of brilliance from Barca.
Casillas made a further excellent save from Messi close to the final whistle but Barca's consolation eventually came from Henry, with a pin-point finish from 20 yards.
But there was still further misery for Barca as Xavi picked up a second yellow after appearing to speak out of turn to the referee.
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