Barcelona failed to re-establish their five-point lead in the Primera Division on Sunday as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid.
Pep Guardiola’s men were second best for long periods at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and were 2-0 down within 23 minutes thanks to a clinical Diego Forlan strike and a wonderful free-kick from Simao Sabrosa.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic halved the deficit within four minutes but Atletico deservedly held on to secure an impressive win and do city rivals Real Madrid a huge favor in the title race.
Real, who beat Xerez 3-0 on Saturday night, are now just two points behind Barca, for whom it was a first league defeat of the season, after 22 rounds.
Meanwhile Sevilla capped a productive week with a 1-0 win against Osasuna which moved them back into the Champions League qualifying spots.
But while it may have been a three-point haul for the Andalusians, it was another wholly unconvincing performance.
Completely outplayed by Getafe in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in midweek – Sevilla still progressed despite a 1-0 defeat – Manolo Jimenez’s men were again lacking fluency.
But they grabbed the only goal came after 35 minutes courtesy of the prolific Luis Fabiano.
Fernando Soriano struck an injury-time equalizer to salvage a point for Almeria and heap more frustration on Getafe.
It looked like Getafe were going to bounce back from their Copa disappointment with a three-point haul as goals from Javi Casquero and Roberto Soldado saw them leading 2-1 heading into the final minutes.
However, it was not to be as Soriano’s 92nd-minute equalizer saved lowly Almeria and continued their decent run under new coach Juan Manuel Lillo, who has now lost just one game in seven since replacing Hugo Sanchez during the winter break.
Espanyol secured a vital 2-0 win at home to high-flying Deportivo La Coruna to move back up to the respectability of mid-table.
Former Deportivo midfielder Joan Verdu set Mauricio Pochettino’s men on their way with the all-important opener six minutes before half-time.
And Jose Callejon sealed a precious win for the Barcelona-based side with the second just short of the hour mark.
By then, the Catalans’ task had been made all the more easier by the sending-off of Deportivo midfielder Antonio Tomas for an elbow on Javi Chica.
Malaga cruised to a 3-0 win at Racing Santander thanks to goals from Weligton, Felipe Caicedo and Victor Obinna.
Racing’s misery was compounded by the late dismissal of striker Mohamed Tchite, who was shown a straight red for gesturing to the referee he needed glasses.
Real Zaragoza produced a battling performance to claim a valuable point against relegation rivals Real Valladolid.
Jose Aurelio Gay’s side had won their previous two matches to climb out of the bottom three at Valladolid’s expense, but they would have been content with just a point today after they were forced to fight back from a goal down and having been reduced to 10 men following Andre Herrera’s 65th-minute dismissal.
Diego Costa had fired Valladolid ahead after 23 minutes before Humberto Suazo got the visitors on level terms six minutes before the break.