Barca finally found the breakthrough in the 76th minute when Frenkie de Jong fed Messi to fire home his fifth goal in the league this season. The win moves Ronald Koeman's side up to eighth in the table, with 17 points from their 11 games.
The only real positive was the win and the three points. Following defeats to Cadiz and Juventus in the past week, Barca couldn't afford to slip up at home to Levante ahead of a big week in the league. On Wednesday, they host leaders Real Sociedad and they're at home again on Saturday against Valencia.
This was a funny performance from Barca. They were not particularly good, they lacked width and they were slow in the final third. That said, they still managed to create lots of chances, with Levante's Aitor Fernandez making 12 saves, more than any other goalkeeper in a La Liga game this season.
In terms of individuals, Clement Lenglet is miles short of his best form and Philippe Coutinho is struggling to find his place in a side that also features Messi and Antoine Griezmann. The Brazil international is encountering the same problems he had at Camp Nou before leaving for Bayern Munich on loan.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Koeman's reluctance to use midfielders like Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig, even off the bench, is bewildering. Barca continually leave too much space in the midfield and the Dutch coach has done nothing to change it.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
DF Sergino Dest, 6 -- An outlet in attack but switched off to let De Frutos in for the early chance.
DF Ronald Araujo, 6 -- The Uruguayan made his first start in the league since October following an injury and was strong in the air.
DF Clement Lenglet, 5 -- Suffering from a dip of confidence at the moment. Maybe the clean sheet will help him re-find his form in the coming weeks.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- With Barca narrow in attack, Alba offered width on the left. Linked well with Messi.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 7 -- One of his better performances this season. Was more willing to drive forward with the ball and take risks. Also set up the goal.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 -- Had a couple of good moments and came close to scoring a couple of times, only to be denied by the impressive Aitor.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Perhaps guilty of trying to do too much on his own but his teammates have hardly proved they can do it without him. Had 10 shots in total but had to wait until the final 15 minutes for his goal. Barca's best player.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 5 -- Taken off in the second half after another off-colour showing. Can't find the space he wants when playing alongside Messi and Griezmann.
FW Martin Braithwaite, 6 -- Played left in the first half and then centrally after the break. Came close to scoring with a curling effort, headed a great chance wide and created space behind him for Messi and Griezmann.
MF Pedri, 7 -- Added urgency and dynamism when he came on, which had previously been missing.
FW Francisco Trincao, 5 -- Came on for Coutinho but didn't do anything. Wasting too many chances at the moment.