LEADING scorers Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo were again on the mark as Real Madrid reduced Barcelona's lead at the summit to one point with a deserved 2-0 win over third-placed Valencia.
Buoyed by Espanyol holding Barca to a goalless draw last night, Madrid dominated the first half tonight and should have lead by more than Higuain's 25th-minute strike.
Manuel Pellegrini's side then had to withstand some nervy moments during the second half before Ronaldo doubled their lead in the 78th minute, sealing Madrid's 14th win in their last 15 league outings.
Athletic Bilbao failed to get back into the European places as they were held to a goalless draw by relegation battlers Real Zaragoza.
Having dropped to seventh after Villarreal's victory over Atletico Madrid yesterday, Athletic needed to respond, but despite plenty of chances, they could not find a way past Roberto Jimenez and were forced to settle for a point.
Zaragoza will be more than happy to take that as they hold a slim two-point cushion above the drop zone.
Nino bagged a hat-trick as Tenerife got the better of Getafe to secure a vital 3-2 win in an entertaining game.
Things looked ominous for Jose Luis Otra's relegation-threatened side as Pedro Leon gave Getafe the lead after just 10 minutes.
But Nino hit back after half an hour and gave the Canary Islanders the lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Javier Casquero then equalised for Getafe with 15 minutes left, but Tenerife reacted once again and Nino completed his hat-trick with the winning goal shortly afterwards.
Tenerife began the day in 18th spot, three points adrift of 17th-placed Malaga, but the Canary Islanders were boosted in midweek by their first away win in the league all season, a deserved 2-0 victory at Sporting Gijon.
The victory lifts Tenerife to within a point of victory, as Malaga were held to a goalless draw by fellow strugglers Real Valladolid.
Xerez and Racing Santander shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw that suited neither of the relegation-battling sides.
Fabian Orellana gave Xerez an early lead, but goals just either side of half-time from Mohamed Tchite turned the game around.
Victor Sanchez then smashed in an equaliser for the hosts 17 minutes from time, but a point was not enough to improve the bottom club's prospects too much, while Racing are still too close to the drop zone for comfort.
Deportivo La Coruna and Almeria played out a goalless draw in a Primera Division game with a distinctly end-of-season feel to it.
With only the vaguest chance of Depor reaching the Europa League and Almeria being sucked into a relegation battle, there was little to play for at the Riazor.