Madrid:Renato's goal on the stroke of halftime proved decisive as Sevilla beat Villarreal 1-0 to move into third place in the Spanish league.
The midfielder dashed in to flick ball past goalkeeper Diego Lopez after Sevilla teammate Frederic Kanoute failed to control Adriano's header into the penalty area on Sunday.
Villarreal's defeat at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez de Pizjuan stadium dropped it to fourth place and extended its recent league slump.
The small-town team, which was second last season for its best league finish, has won only once in the past five games, although it has qualified for Champions League knockout phase.
Also, Atletico Madrid defeated Real Betis 2-0 on goals by Maxi Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero to leapfrog Real Madrid into fifth place.
After 15 games, Barcelona leads the league with 38 points, eight more than Valencia and Sevilla. Villarreal stayed on 29. Atletico has 27, while defending champion Madrid has 26.
Also yesterday, it was: Valladolid 3, Deportivo La Coruna 0; Getafe 4, Mallorca 1; Almeria 1, Racing Santander 1; Athletic Bilbao 3, Sporting Gijon 0; Recreativo Huelva 1, Osasuna 0; and Malaga 2, Numancia 0.
Villarreal's problems at Sevilla increased in the 53rd when striker Joseba Llorente, who was returning after a month's injury layoff, was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
Atletico's victory over Betis extended its unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions.
Midfielder Rodriguez chested down Maniche's through pass before rifling an angled shot past goalkeeper Casto Espinosa to give Atletico a 20th-minute lead.
Striker Aguero sealed the win in the 81st with his eighth goal of the season, shooting past Espinosa after being set free by Diego Forlan's pass.
Valladolid extended its unbeaten run to five games with a comfortable win over Deportivo.
Deportivo's loss at Jose Zorrilla Stadium ended a winning run of three straight games and left it in seventh place with 24 points. Valladolid, whose undefeated streak includes four wins, is eighth with 23 points.
Getafe, which has beaten Madrid and drawn with Barcelona and Villarreal in its past three games, gained another three points and dropped Mallorca into the relegation zone.
The home side took a two-goal lead through Cosmin Contra's 15th-minute penalty and Ikechukwu Uche's chip 16 minutes later, with Mallorca's Aritz Aduriz reducing the deficit in the 33rd.
Manu del Moral and Jaime Gavilan sealed Getafe's win with further goals in the 72nd and the 85th.
An unstoppable drive by defender Ezequiel Garay gave Santander a 31st-minute lead, with Santi Acasiete's volley equalizing for Almeria. Santander midfielder Mehdi Lacen was sent off in the 73rd.
Bilbao's three goals against Gijon were scored in the first 31 minutes, courtesy of a penalty by Fernando Llorente, and strikes by Andoni Iraola and David Lopez.
Recreativo forward Adrian Colunga scored in the 84th minute to beat last-place Osasuna and bring his team its first home win since April.
Malaga's Antonio "Apono" Galdeano converted an 85th-minute penalty and Nabil Baha added a second goal in the 90th in his team's victory over another promoted side, Numancia.