A second-half goal from Koke was enough to give Atletico Madrid all three points in a tight game at Malaga with victory guiding Diego Simeone’s side to the top of the Spanish La Liga for at least 24 hours.
The visitors were made to sweat for the victory and had endured a frustrating afternoon at La Rosaleda until the Spanish international popped up with the winner on 70 minutes.
Not for the first time this season away from the Calderon, Atleti struggled to create many chances but Simeone has instilled a winning mentality in the team and once again they did just enough to take all the points home with them.
The Madrid side have now gained 49 points, three more than Barcelona, who entertain Elche on Sunday.
Real Valladolid and Real Betis shared the spoils in an exciting albeit goalless draw at the Jose Zorilla stadium, a result that does little to help either team’s precarious situation in the La Liga table.
Los Blanquivioletas move one point away from the drop zone but could find themselves back in it on Sunday if Osasuna beat Espanyol, while Betis remain rooted to the bottom of the table, five points behind Valladolid.
On the plus side for the Andalusians, Juan Carlos Garrido finally earned his first point since taking over as coach last month.
Despite the lack of goals, this was an open game in which both teams showed ambition going forward but were unable to put the ball in the net.
Elsewhere, Almeria moved four points clear of the La Liga relegation zone after a comfortable 3-0 win over Granada.
Sebastian Dubarbier opened the scoring in the 14th minute, while Verza doubled the lead just before the half hour mark from the penalty spot after Diego Mainz had fouled Fernando Soriano in the area.
Riki went closest for the visitors, with the former Deportivo La Coruna striker denied by the crossbar after the interval, before Alex Vidal sealed victory for Almeria 11 minutes from time.
It was their second success in a row and ensured a happy return from the winter break as they moved four points clear of Osasuna, who play Espanyol on Sunday.
Goals from Pablo Piatti and Sofiane Feghouli either side of half-time earned Valencia a 2-0 win over Levante at the Mestalla to move Los Che into the eigth spot in the table and three points away from the European places.