His goal was the 27th goal he has scored against Sevilla in 29 games and he then set up Luis Suarez to get the winner cancelling out Vitolo’s opener.
Messi was booked in the second half when leaving the pitch too slowly to change a boot torn by a Steven N’Zonzi challenge and Barça survived a late penalty scare to take the three points.
Sevilla had started with all the power and confidence of a team who knew they could go above Barcelona with a win over them. Vitolo put them ahead on the quarter hour.
Franco Vazquez played a long diagonally forward to the Spain winger. It would never have reached him if Sergio Roberto had intercepted but the right-back failed to clear and Vitolo punished the mistake honing in on Marc Andre ter Stegen’s goal and shooting past him.
On the half hour it should have been two but inexplicably Pablo Sarabia backheeled the ball away from goal when there was nothing but Ter Stegen between him and Sevilla’s second goal.
Luciano Vietto had crossed from the left but Sarabia looked to assist when he should have scored and the chance was gone.
Vitolo then shot wide from another Sevilla chance and predictably the home side paid for the two misses when Messi scored two minutes before half time.
He started the move in his own half moving the ball on to Denis Suarez who had impressed in what had been a poor first period for Barcelona.
He carried the ball forward with urgency and continued his run after laying the ball off to Neymar.
The Brazilian dribbled infield waiting for the arrival of Messi who finished what he had started with a precise finish past Rami and Sevilla keeper Serio Rico.
The goal took the va-va out of Sevilla’s voom. Nasri had pulled the strings in the first half playing just behind the tireless Vitolo, Vietto, Sarabia and Vazquez.
But he had only just made the starting line-up after missing the midweek Champions League game through injury.
Barcelona had moved up a gear since scoring and on the hour they were ahead. Messi was again the catalyst although this time it was Suarez how finised the move. Messi swept forward feeding Suarez wide right.
He fired past Rico for his eight goal of the season. Suarez had spent most of the game playing wide right carrying out the orders of coach Luis Enrique who wanted the Uruguayan to stop Sevilla’s left-back Escudero from getting forward.
That switch left Messi through the middle and from there he had turned the game on its head.
Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli responded by putting Ganso on for Vazquez and N’Zonzi could have equalized from a corner with 20 minutes left.
Ter Stegen came for a corner and got nowhere near the ball. The former Stoke midfielder had dominated in the first half but his header lacked conviction and went wide.
Rico saved from Suarez to keep Sevilla in the game and finally Sampaoli took off passenger Nasri to bolster his midfield with Vicente Iborra.
The change didn’t affect Messi’s ability to run Sevilla ragged and when N’Zonzi fouled him tearing his right boot in the process Messi stayed down to put the boot back on.
Once Messi realized he needed a new boot the referee asked him to leave the pitch and when he did so too slowly for the match official’s liking he was yellow carded. He risked the card turning red when he threw the boot down and kicked it off the pitch as he walked to the touchline to change his footwear.
The card stayed yellow, Messi came back on, and Barcelona played out time to take all three points only after the referee had ignored Sevilla shouts for a penalty by Umtiti on Joaquin Correa.
There was pushing and pulling from both defender and attacker but Sampaoli didn’t see it that way confronting the linesman on the final whistle.