Barcelona reclaimed the leadership of the Primera Liga on Sunday after a 3-0 win over basement side Gimnastic Tarragona left them leading the table on goal difference, ahead of title rivals Sevilla and Real Madrid.
An early strike from the in-form Javier Saviola, who took his tally to seven goals in four games, and second half goals from French winger Ludovic Giuly and midfielder Andres Iniesta ended Gimnastic's stubborn resistance.
Real Madrid joined Sevilla and Barca at the top after a superbly struck free kick from Jose Antonio Reyes allowed them to sneak a barely deserved 1-0 win at struggling Real Mallorca.
All three teams are locked on 38 points at the head of the table, but with a game in hand Barcelona can pull clear at the halfway mark in the Spanish season and claim the symbolic title of winter champions if they win away at Real Betis on Wednesday.
In what is one of the tightest title races in recent memory, Valencia trail the leading trio by just two points after chalking up their sixth Primera Liga win on the trot with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad thanks to a free kick from David Villa.
Sociedad keeper Victor Bravo was left rooted to the spot when the Spain striker whipped a 25-metre shot over the wall and into the top corner shortly before the half-hour mark.
Atletico Madrid are a further point behind in fifth after their 1-0 win over Osasuna on Sunday.
Barcelona's Saviola was rewarded for his fine run of scoring form in the Cup with a place in the starting line-up against Gimnastic and the Argentine repaid coach Frank Rijkaard's confidence almost immediately.
Controlling a miscued shot from Oleguer with his right foot, he turned and fired in with his left from 12 metres out to put Barca in front in the 18th minute.
Giuly managed to extend their lead midway through the second when he hooked in from close range after substitute Eidur Gudjohnsen had a header cleared off the line.
Iniesta completed the job when he drilled in from the edge of the area after keeper Albano Bizzarri had palmed a Ronaldinho shot into his path 10 minutes from time.
Mallorca made all the early running against Real Madrid with former Barcelona striker Maxi Lopez proving to be a thorn in the side of the visting back four.
Real, with Ronaldo, Antonio Cassano and David Beckham still on Fabio Capello's persona non-grata list, played little in the way of fluent football and failed to make much headway in attack.
But they made off with the points thanks to a brilliant free kick from Reyes 13 minutes from time, the former Arsenal player giving keeper Miguel Angel Moya no chance when he curled his shot into the top corner from five metres outside the area.