A goal from captain Raul allowed Real Madrid to snatch a 1-0 win against Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday and move up to second place in the Primera Liga.
Valencia dominated for long periods of an intense encounter but they paid the price for some profligate finishing while the visitors took full advantage of one of their rare attacks.
Raul steered home from eight metres out after Roberto Carlos had cut back a neat pass from the byline seven minutes into the second half.
Real are now just three points behind leaders Barcelona, who crushed Villarreal 4-0 on Saturday.
Brazilian forward Ronaldinho opened the scoring with a penalty and wrapped up with a sublime overhead kick three minutes from time.
Sevilla, who slipped to third after Real's win, visit Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday.
Real Zaragoza missed a chance to keep the pressure on the leading trio when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo on Sunday and are now three points adrift of Real in fourth spot.
There were goals galore at El Sardinero, Serbian striker Nikola Zigic scoring two and winning a penalty as Racing Santander beat in-form Recreativo Huelva 4-3.
Osasuna moved out of the relegation zone after their first win in eight outings with a 4-1 destruction of Deportivo Coruna while Real Mallorca won 3-2 at basement side Gimnastic.
Injury-ravaged Valencia made all the running at the Mestalla, giving the Real back four a torrid time as they laid siege to the opposition area throughout the first half.
Winger David Silva tormented Michel Salgado on the left but Valencia's strike power was seriously undermined when David Villa, who suffered a thigh strain in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Olympiakos, limped off after just 15 minutes.
With fellow striker Fernando Morientes also nursing a thigh injury, Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores decided to keep the former Real Madrid striker on the bench and hope his side would eventually cash in on their domination.
But Real skipper Raul gave the home side a lesson in finishing when he steered home with a first-time shot from eight metres out after Roberto Carlos completed a slick counterattack by sliding the ball into his path from the byline.
Valencia should have equalised a little over a minute later when Iker Casillas turned a Joaquin shot into Miguel Angel Angulo's path but the midfielder somehow contrived to miss the target from point-blank range.
Vicente and Angulo missed further chances to score but Real hung on to take a valuable victory against Valencia who have now not won in five games.