Real Madrid’s home defeat to Athletic Bilbao combined with a win for Barcelona, put Frank Riijkaard’s men seven points clear of their arch-rivals at the top of the table.
The Catalans suffered an early scare in their game with Mallorca when Carlos Puyol conceded a penalty in the 12th minute, but goalkeeper Victor Valdes came to his side’s rescue when he guessed right to stop Luis Garcia’s spot kick.
Deco put Barca in front five minutes later with an angled shot from the edge of the area and the Portugal midfielder made it 2-0 early in the second half when he drilled the ball home under keeper Miguel Moya after cutting in from the right.
In-form Athletic Bilbao put an end to Real’s seven-match winning streak under new coach Wanderlei Luxemburgo thanks to a powerful header from fullback Asier del Horno and a cool finish from young midfielder Andoni Iraola.
Real faded quickly after a promising start and Bilbao should have taken the lead in the 17th minute when Pablo Orbaiz sent a 40 yard drive crashing off the bar and over the line but the referee waved the game on as the ball bounced back into play.
Del Horno eventually gave the visitors the lead 13 minutes after the break when he headed home after a great cross from Orbaiz, and Iraola made sure the Basques extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches when he slotted past Iker Casillas in the 73rd minute.
Numancia came from behind to win their first away game of the season, at Albacte, and claim their first victory in 10 outings, but still remain rooted to the foot of the table four points adrift of Real Mallorca.
An excellent strike from midfielder Mark Gonzalez gave Albacete a 37th-minute lead but a second half penalty from Carlos Merino levelled the scores before Miguel snatched the winner in the closing minutes. Albacete sacked coach Jose Gonzalez after the game as the side slipped into the relegation zone
After three straight defeats on their travels, Osasuna finally ground out a point at the expense of Getafe to push the Madrid club down to 15th.
Although chances were few and far between Getafe striker Riki had a great opportunity to grab all the points near the end, but was denied by a superb point-blank save from Osasuna keeper Juantxo Elia
Real Zaragoza failed to build on their impressive midweek UEFA Cup win at Fenerbahce as they were held to a draw by struggling Levante.
Levante striker Sergio Garcia hit a shot against the crossbar 17 minutes from time, in the best chance of the game, but Bernd Schuster’s side were unable to end their miserable run which has seen them win just once in their last 14 outings.
Espanyol lost ground in their push for a Champions League place as they fell to an improving Malaga who have lost just one game in six since Antonio Tapia took charge.
Midfielders Juan Rodriguez and Miguel Angel got the Andalucians off to a good start with two well taken strikes in the first 16 minutes. Defender Juanito made it 3-0 when he scored after Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni spilled Duda’s shot, but the visitors staged a fightback despite being reduced to 10 men when Alex Fernandez was sent off for a second booking.
Striker Dani pulled a goal back with a sharp shot from the edge of the area, and Malaga defender Fernando Sanz turned the ball into his own net with five minutes left on the clock.
Brazilian midfielder Marcos Assuncao fired Real Betis to a two-goal win over Deportivo, putting the Andalucians back into the Champions League places.
A back-heel from winger Joaquin set up the first before the break, and a trademark free kick in the second half secured the points, although Depor keeper Gustavo got his hands to both shots.
Uruguayan striker Mario Regueiro gave Racing Santander a surprise home win over a listless Valencia, to push Claudio Ranieri’s side out of the Champions League places into sixth. Regueiro’s sweetly taken free kick left Valencia keeper Andres Palop with little chance early in the second half, but Palop did deny Racing a second with a great reflex save later in the half.
Valencia striker Mista put a header against the upright with five minutes to go, but the pressure continues to mount on Ranieri as his side have now taken just three points from their last six games.
Argentina midfielder Juan Pablo Sorin sealed a memorable fightback victory for Villarreal with an injury-time winner, after Atletico Madrid had taken a two-goal first-half lead through Fernando Torres.
The Spain striker raced onto passes from winger Jesper Gronkjaer and Ariel Ibagaza to put his side two-up before the break and on course for only their third away win of the season.
But Villarreal, who have only lost once at home this season pulled one back through Diego Forlan, and then equalised courtesy of an own goal from defender Luis Perea, who headed Juan Roman Riquleme’s free kick into his own net.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Atletico midfielder Nano inadvertently knocked the ball into the path of the Sorin, who lashed the ball past Leo Franco for the winner.
A late strike by centre forward Darko Kovacevic gave Sociedad a hard-earned and valuable win over Sevilla in an evenly balanced match at Anoeta.