Villarreal remain fourth in the Primera Division after their run of victories was halted by a goalless draw at home to Real Betis.
The Yellow Submarine could have moved above Real Madrid into third if they had registered what would have been their seventh straight league win in the contest at El Madrigal, but they were left frustrated.
Instead, it was a pleasing day’s work for 15th-placed Betis in their first league match since the sacking of coach Pepe Mel, interim boss Juan Merino overseeing from the dugout as the club’s run of five successive defeats in all competitions came to an end.
Fifth-placed Celta Vigo brought their own losing streak to an end after three league matches by beating rock-bottom Levante 4-3 at Balaidos.
A first-half John Guidetti double followed by Iago Aspas’ strike just before the hour saw Celta apparently cruising at 3-0 up, but the visitors hit back soon after with two goals in as many minutes from Deyverson and Pedro Lopez.
Fabian Orellana then scored after 84 minutes to give the Galicians breathing space, although Pedro Morales netted five minutes later to ensure a tense finish.
Sevilla moved up a place to sixth after emerging from a fierce Andalusian derby against Malaga with a 2-1 victory thanks to Kevin Gameiro’s quick-fire brace at the end of the first half.
Gameiro struck in the 40th and 42nd minutes at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, with Charles pulling a goal back in the 71st.
The match finished with both sides reduced to 10 men following late dismissals, the hosts having Vincente Iborra sent off when he collected his second booking in the 83rd minute and Arthur Boka then following suit in stoppage time.
Saturday’s other fixture saw Real Sociedad draw 1-1 at home with Deportivo La Coruna, Luis Alberto’s first-half strike for the visitors being cancelled out by a Xabi Prieto penalty 15 minutes from time.