Atletico Madrid continued their push towards their first La Liga title since 1996 with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Villarreal.
A 12th minute header from Raul Garcia proved to be enough for the hosts, much to the delight of coach Diego Simeone and the home faithful at the Vincente Calderon.The win stretches Atleti's unbeaten run at home to 18 league games and opened up a four point lead at the top of the table.
That gap was cut to one by second-placed Barcelona later on Saturday, as the Catalan club secured a 3-1 win over Real Betis at the Camp Nou to end a difficult week on a high note.
The reigning champions hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after being hit with a transfer embargo by FIFA for next season in relation to irregularities in their youth set up.
Any suggestions of Gerado Martino's side being distracted by those events were banished after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi stroked home a well-struck penalty, following a foul from Jordi Figueras on Alexis Sanchez.
It went from bad to worse for Figueras, who put the ball into his own net after attempting to cut out an Adriano cross after 67 minutes.
Betis were handed a lifeline just a minute later, when Ruben Castro turned in Alfred N'Diaye's cutback, setting up a nervy finish for Martino's men, but any hopes of a comeback were extinguished four minutes from time, when Juanfran was adjudged to have handled Neymar's cross in the box.
Messi saw his resulting spot-kick saved by Adnan but was first to the rebound to wrap up a hard-fought win.
That left third-placed Real Madrid in need of a win to stay in touch with the top two at Real Sociedad.
Former Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi gave Madrid the lead just before half time, poking home Karim Benzema's effort that was well saved by Claudio Bravo.
That lead was doubled after 66 minutes when Gareth Bale took advantage of Bravo's poor kick to smash home from 30 yards, before Pepe added a third late on.
Angel Di Maria came off the bench to extend his side's lead further two minutes from time, following some terrific link-up play with Alvaro Morata, completing a convincing win for the visitors.
In the day's only other game, 10-man Rayo Vallecano gave their survival hopes another significant boost with a 3-0 win at home to Celta Vigo, courtesy of a second-half brace from Alberto Bueno, who added to Ruben Rochina's 26th minute opener.
Razvan Rat saw red for an off the ball incident after 64 minutes but it failed to have an impact on proceedings as Paco Jemez's side held on for their fifth straight home win.
|Leicester City 1 West Brom 1: Mahrez cancels out Chadli magic|
|Hamsik not worried by Maradona record ahead of Man City clash|
|Man City better than Real Madrid? Sarri daunted by Napoli´s Etihad assignment|
|Ashley puts Newcastle United put up for sale|
|Lovren accuses ´nervous´ Lukaku of deliberate kick during Manchester United draw|
|One small step for Ox... Klopp praise for under-fire midfielder|
|Klopp denies Liverpool have lost confidence|
|Manchester ready for goal rush as Spurs visit fortress Bernabeu - Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Tottenham one of Europe´s best, claims Riedle|
|Watch: Barcelona mark Messi debut with footage of La Masia magic|
|Ronaldo has to win Ballon d´Or, says Isco|
|Guardiola not falling for De Laurentiis´ Napoli script change|
|Guardiola´s ´genius´ inspiring Sterling at Manchester City|
|He is a complete forward – Zidane an admirer of Kane|
|Bale could miss both Tottenham games, concedes Zidane|
|Guardiola takes pressure off De Bruyne amid Messi comparisons|
|Napoli should rest stars against Manchester City - De Laurentiis|
|Switzerland, Italy, Croatia & Denmark seeded for World Cup play-offs|
|Kane takes Real Madrid interest ´very naturally´, says Pochettino|
|Chelsea struggling to fight on several fronts, Conte concedes|
|Jiangsu Suning confident Capello not Italy-bound|
|Pochettino: Madrid are not the Ronaldo team|
|Boateng considered Bayern exit|
|Nonsense! Critics won´t force Postecoglou out says Socceroos great Moore|
|MLS Review: Sounders, Timbers book play-off spots|
|Lukaku dismisses suggestions he is a flat-track bully|
|Milan will go along with Montella - Fassone backs boss after derby loss|
|Valencia win incredible nine-goal thriller at Betis|
|Spalletti hails Inter´s derby hero Icardi as complete striker|
|D´Ambrosio was clever - Milan boss Montella angry at Inter´s winning penalty|
|Mandanda breaks Marseille appearance record|
|Inter hero Icardi ´holding on tight´ to derby hat-trick ball|
|Pochettino watches you everywhere - Fonte|
|Attack proving best form of defence for Manchester City|
|If they think that, they will be stupid - Guardiola rules out City complacency pre-Napoli|
|Inter 3 AC Milan 2: Brilliant Icardi treble breaks Rossoneri hearts|
|Indonesian goalkeeper Choirul Huda dies after colliding with team-mate|
|Pogba steps up recovery from hamstring injury|
|I feel pity for the fans – Benitez|
|Jesus learning from Aguero and living for goals at Manchester City|
|De Vrij eyes Lazio extension despite Liverpool links|
|Southampton 2 Newcastle United 2: Gabbiadini brace denies Magpies|
|Treble season - Barcelona star Messi and Antonella Roccuzzo to have third child|
|Rooney makes Brighton his 36th Premier League victims|
|My whole football life is pressure - Koeman unconcerned by scrutiny|
|Inter striker Icardi targets 100 goals for club|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Everton 1: Late Rooney penalty fails to paper over visitors´ woeful show|
|Derby County 2 Nottingham Forest 0: Vydra´s rapid start sets Rams on their way|
|Spurs boss Pochettino harbours England ambitions|
|Milan´s Bonucci grateful to Inter for early grounding|
|De Bruyne one of the best in the world, says Silva|
|I won´t finish my career here – Mourinho looking beyond Manchester United|
|A-League Review: Bobo double sinks Wellington Phoenix, Taggart rescues Perth Glory point|
|Allardyce rules out taking ´very tempting´ Scotland job|
|Pochettino did not like me at first, reveals Alli|
|Koke pleased with Atletico display against Barcelona, Messi|
|Vazquez: Isco´s football is from the street|
|Ronaldo always delivers when Madrid need him to – Marcelo|
|Messi ´tired´ after recent heroics, says Valverde|
|Mertesacker laments Arsenal collapse|
|We achieved something remarkable - Inzaghi hails Lazio´s ´historic´ win at Juve|
|Simeone lauds Barcelona´s ´extraordinary´ Messi|