Atletico Madrid displayed a gritty side to their Liga credentials after edging Granada 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday.
Winning without playing in top gear is often heralded as a hallmark of champions, and Diego Simeone's side are well-placed for the title on that basis, with Real Madrid's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla putting them clear at the top.
Atleti struggled to break down their opponents in a frustrating first half that saw Arda Turan go closest.
But top scorer Diego Costa came to their rescue after 63 minutes with his 24th Liga goal of the season.
Real's defeat means Atleti are now a point clear of Barcelona as the advantage in the title race continues to swing between the three teams.
But it is the season's surprise package Atleti who now appear in control after a 17th-consecutive home league game without defeat.
Turan had the hosts' best chances in the opening stages, first prodding wide after David Villa's near-post flick was blocked and then skewing a poor effort off target from 20 yards.
Simeone had called for a vocal backing from home support ahead of the game, and they did their best to generate an atmosphere, despite there being little to shout about on the pitch.
Youssef El-Arabi nodded a Granada corner wide and Atleti midfielder Tiago saw a goal chalked off for a foul in the build-up as things heated up before the break.
The atmosphere dropped as Thibaut Courtois was forced to keep out Yacine Brahimi's fierce effort and the visitors were quick out the blocks in the second half, Recio and Jeison Murillo somehow failing to turn Fran Rico's corner home.
But Atleti finally got their act together just after the hour as Costa put them ahead.
Having seen Roberto keep out a firm header from Gabi's corner just two minutes earlier, Costa met another delivery from the home captain and got his effort beyond the veteran goalkeeper to raise the volume in the Calderon once again.
Atleti looked to see the game out with a much more disciplined showing after the goal, and the players may have been buoyed as a roar went around the ground 75 minutes in as news of Real going behind filtered through the crowd.
Roberto did well to deny Gabi and substitute Diego as Atleti pushed for a second, but Atleti were ultimately left to settle for the narrow scoreline.
Defeat for Granada keeps them looking over their shoulders, just six points clear of the bottom three, while the hard-fought three points could prove crucial come the season's conclusion for Atleti as they seek their first league crown since 1996.
|Liverpool relishing Britannia return, says Henderson|
|Everton big enough to keep Stones - Martinez|
|MLS Review: Fire stun Dallas as goals dry up|
|New Atletico signings excite Raul Garcia|
|Cahill expects Arsenal title challenge|
|Jovetic happy with Inter debut|
|Yanev calls for calm after ugly scenes in friendly|
|Luis Enrique: Barca defence must improve|
|Coppa Italia Review: Cittadella romp to victory, Brescia rely on penalties|
|Arsenal have learned how to play against big teams - Ramsey|
|Shawcross to visit specialist over back woe|
|Fiorentina 2 Barcelona 1: Bernardeschi double sends Barca to another defeat|
|Mancini hints at Melo interest|
|Rodgers hails ´incredible´ Benteke strike|
|Galatasary 1 Inter 0: Sneijder sinks former club|
|Wenger defends Arsenal approach|
|Wembley loss has no bearing on new season - Terry|
|Porto cruise to friendly win over Stoke|
|Mourinho denies Wenger ´snub´ suggestions|
|Arsenal abandoned their philosophy to win Community Shield - Mourinho|
|Mourinho throws Community Shield medal into Wembley crowd|
|Swindon Town 1 Liverpool 2: Benteke nets stunner on debut|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Hearts win thriller on top-flight return|
|Ujah at the double as Bremen beat West Ham|
|Mourinho: We were the better team|
|Wenger hails defensive solidity|
|Rooney returns as Villarreal spoil Ferguson´s party|
|Rodriguez stunner earns Southampton draw as Caulker makes debut|
|Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0: Case of 14th time lucky for Wenger against Mourinho|
|Taechaubol announces Milan agreement|
|Jojic fires Cologne to latest victory|
|China 0 South Korea 2: Kim and Lee seal victory|
|Origi getting up to speed|
|Costa a doubt for start of season - Mourinho|
|North Korea 2 Japan 1: Halilhodzic´s men spurn lead|
|Allam brands FA ´amateurs´ as name-change row rumbles on|
|Fournier ´worried´ by Lyon pre-season|
|Swansea still working on Michu exit - Monk|
|Neuer furious at Bayern Supercup defeat|
|Wenger: Ozil signing not a mistake|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Shakhtar ready for Fenerbahce decider|
|Lampard targets MLS play-offs for City|
|MLS Review: Goals galore as DC United win 10-goal thriller|
|Ronaldinho returns and helps Fluminense to win|
|Keane: United won´t overtake Chelsea|
|Casillas has the ´enthusiasm of a 20-year-old´ - Lopetegui|
|Blanc hopeful over Ibrahimovic knee injury|
|Guardiola laments late goal in Supercup defeat|
|Tuchel plans to keep Bender|
|Hecking happy with Wolfsburg discipline after Supercup win|
|Arsenal players too interested in selfies and six-packs - Keane|
|Confusion over Ibrahimovic´s PSG future|
|Sporting Lisbon 2 Roma 0: Slimani, Mane inspire Portuguese hosts|
|Rodgers feeling ready for new campaign|
|Khedira to miss Supercoppa|
|Paris Saint-Germain 2 Lyon 0: Aurier and Cavani seal more silverware|
|Wolfsburg 1 Bayern Munich 1 (5-4 on penalties): Super-sub Bendtner nicks it for Pokal champions|
|Lampard´s long-awaited New York City debut ends in defeat|
|Casillas the spot-kick hero for Porto|
|Monk bullish ahead of season opener at champions|
|Marseille 2-0 Juventus: Night to forget for Serie A champions|
|Swansea end pre-season with yet another draw|
|HJK 0 Liverpool 2: Origi and Coutinho on target|
|Juventus rocked by Khedira injury scare|
|Lens and Pantilimon star as Sunderland beat Hannover|
|Pardew hopeful of concluding Wickham deal|
|Martinez allays Lukaku fears|
|Stuttgart 4 Manchester City 2: Cause for concern for Pellegrini|
|Wasteful Bournemouth held by Hoffenheim|
|Jerome seals Norwich win|
|Souare´s first goal ensures Palace draw|
|Sinclair hits hat-trick in Villa draw|
|Leicester end pre-season with thrilling Birmingham win|
|Wood and Mowatt condemn Everton to friendly defeat|
|Coloccini not involved as Newcastle lose to Gladbach|
|Borussia Dortmund 2 Real Betis 0: Ramos scores on return from injury|
|Stoke lose to Cologne on Afellay debut|
|Norwich capture goalkeeper Kean|
|Jovetic hits out at Pellegrini following City exit|
|Jones backing new boys to spark United revival|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Celtic up and running, Dundee hammer Kilmarnock|
|Can keen to learn from Milner|
|Immobile on the mend following friendly scare|
|Sagan Tosu 1 Atletico Madrid 1 (1-4 on penalties): Simeone´s men need spot-kicks|
|Cahill: Big-spending rivals will make title race tougher|
|Roberto happy to play full-back for Barca|
|Gestede eager to make his mark at Villa|
|I want to play more and score more - Remy|
|Lambert influence important, says Pulis|
|Benteke a ´bargain´ buy - Rodgers|
|Zola: Qatar would be ideal for Balotelli, Cassano|
|Suarez: I´m not among world´s best|
|PSG ready despite ´chaotic´ pre-season - Blanc|
|Arsenal thumping still hurts - Fournier|
|Aubameyang targets Champions League success|
|Rooney set for Everton return|
|Cech can match Van der Sar - Wenger|
|Mourinho ponders Wenger´s losing record against him|
|CBF confirm Fred failed a doping test|