Real Madrid extended their unbeaten run in La Liga to 18 matches thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's winner in a 1-0 victory at Malaga.
The Portuguese's 25th league goal of the season proved the difference between the two sides at La Rosaleda, as Carlo Ancelotti's men continued to force the pace at the top of La Liga ahead of El Clasico against Barcelona next weekend
After slumping to a shock 3-2 defeat at Malaga last season, Real looked determined to avoid a repeat this time out.
But they were still made to work for the victory, which came via Ronaldo's clever finish in the 23rd minute, as he fired across goal and into the bottom corner.
The Ballon d'Or winner could have made it more comfortable when he headed narrowly wide with another fine chance just prior to the break, but this time he was wasteful.
Isco started for Real against his former side and he should have put the match beyond them when he missed a one-on-one early in the second half.
The home side then enjoyed their fair share of late pressure, but they were ultimately unable to break down Real, as the visitors held on to stay clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid ahead of their meeting with Espanyol.
Ancelotti had insisted that the trip was of "crucial" importance to Real as they looked to at least maintain the four-point gap between themselves and Barcelona ahead their meeting next week - and the visitors looked dangerous right from the start.
They could have been awarded a penalty just six minutes in, but referee Juan Martinez ignored their protests after Marcos Angeleri brought down Gareth Bale.
After a nervous start, Malaga's first chance fell to Roque Santa Cruz 12 minutes in, as he directed a header over the crossbar following Nordin Amrabat's right-wing cross.
Unsurprisingly, Real capitalised on that miss by taking the lead.
With 23 minutes gone, Bale floated a lofted pass over to Ronaldo on the left-hand side of the area and the Portuguese cut inside before guiding a low effort into the bottom corner.
Ronaldo almost netted his second just before the break as he rose to meet Angel Di Maria's stunning volleyed cross, but Willy Caballero was grateful to see the header go wide.
Real looked determined to wrap up the win as early as possible at the beginning of the second period and they should have doubled their advantage in the 51st minute, but Isco blazed over when one-on-one with Cabellero after Di Maria's solo run.
Pepe was lucky to stay on the pitch after 61 minutes when he caught Duda crudely on the knee with his studs.
Caballero then denied Ronaldo a second goal 10 minutes from time as he dived down to his right to palm away the forward's effort, but Real had done enough.
They held on for three important points in the title race, while Malaga remain in trouble at the bottom and are now only just clear of the drop zone.
|Mourinho hints at United future for Mata and Fellaini|
|Real Madrid 3 Chelsea 2: Hazard show too late for Blues|
|Penalty woes for Everton, Gray treble inspires Burnley at Ibrox|
|Atleti to present Gameiro on Sunday|
|Ibrahimovic nets debut goal as United put five past Galatasaray|
|Barcelona 3 Celtic 1: Messi, Suarez in action as Catalans cruise to victory|
|WATCH: Zlatan open his Man Utd account with acrobatic goal|
|Alba: It would be foolish not to respect Ronaldo, but Messi on another level|
|Lahm hails ´sensational guy´ Schweinsteiger following Germany retirement|
|Stones´ professionalism praised amid City reports|
|Roma suffer Rui blow|
|Inter complete Ansaldi move|
|Nainggolan confident of Roma challenge despite Juve investment|
|Rummenigge tells off Ribery over Guardiola dig|
|Meli makes Sporting loan switch|
|No repeat of slow start, vows Allegri|
|Mourinho desperately wanted Embolo at Manchester United, claims Heidel|
|Dembele can do anything - Tuchel|
|Pogba arrival would boost Rooney - Yorke|
|Ben Yedder makes Sevilla move|
|De Jong signs PSV renewal until 2020|
|Kovacic to fight for his place at Real Madrid|
|Sturridge out to improve goals-per-game ratio|
|Mourinho hails ´humble´ Ibrahimovic ahead of United debut|
|Schweinsteiger will not leave Manchester United for Bundesliga return - Rummenigge|
|Benatia on target again in Juve win|
|Atletico set to sign Gameiro|
|Zenga appointed Wolves boss|
|Flattered Verratti not seeking Madrid move|
|Ancelotti: Growing transfer fees nothing special|
|Eriksson: Ibrahimovic and Mourinho combo enough to win Premier League|
|Meunier: I could not reject PSG|
|Klopp: I didn´t want Mkhitaryan|
|Anything could happen before transfer window shuts - Zidane|
|Montoya leaves Barca base, nears Valencia switch|
|Wijnaldum: I´m happy to play anywhere|
|Klopp backs Mignolet after Karius injury|
|Liverpool suffer Karius injury blow|
|Ranieri confident Mahrez will stay as contract talks continue|
|Emery confirms interest in Jese|
|Higuain´s Juventus move not about money - agent|
|Wolves sack head coach Jackett|
|Zidane: Ronaldo unlikely to play Madrid La Liga opener|
|Ibrahimovic: United fans are waiting for me|
|Deulofeu shines for Everton, Cook opens Bournemouth account|
|Higuain out to emulate Del Piero|
|Kante does his talking on the pitch - Conte|
|Mourinho explains Fosu-Mensah snub|
|Klopp: No more unwanted players at Liverpool|
|Inter want more than €60m for Icardi - Thohir|
|Leicester can replace Kante - Ranieri|
|Lazio complete Wallace signing|
|Gueye set to join Everton, confirms Di Matteo|
|Tuchel: Transfer market has gone cash crazy|
|Leicester hand King new four-year deal|
|No deal done for Pogba, says Raiola|
|Rooney: Mourinho impact already huge|
|Lafferty hit with FA betting charge|
|Top-four finish never enough for Arsenal, insists Wenger|
|Partey hoping to make his mark on Atletico squad|
|Ibrahimovic in, Schweinsteiger out as United head for Galatasaray friendly|
|Vietto set for Sevilla after completing medical|
|I rejected Besiktas to fight for Barcelona spot, reveals Mathieu|
|De Laurentiis fumes at Higuain´s ´lack of respect´|
|Promising Janssen boosts Tottenham´s title hopes|
|Besiktas sign Adriano on three-year contract|
|Tottenham 0 Atletico Madrid 1: Godin grabs the winner|
|Gomis completes Marseille loan move|
|Iniesta surprised at Casillas-Del Bosque spat|
|New Juve signings do not guarantee success - Allegri|
|New Juve signings do not guarantee success - Allegri|
|Middlesbrough snap up goalkeeper Guzan|
|Guardiola still loves Ribery despite jibes|
|West Ham worry over Tore injury|
|Serie A could be another one-horse race, says Eriksson|
|Schweinsteiger retires from Germany duty|
|Iniesta welcomes Barca´s midfield competition|
|Drogba: No luck in Arsenal scoring record|
|Wenger seeks ´experienced´ striker to bolster Arsenal attack|
|Eriksson and Shanghai SIPG still fighting|
|MLS All-Stars 1 Arsenal 2: Premier League giants win late as Xhaka makes debut|
|Conte: I want aggression and intensity|
|Wimmer backs physical Janssen for Tottenham success|
|Klopp: I wouldn´t spend £100m on one player|