Raul Gonzalez scored in the 52nd minute on Sunday to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Valencia and move the team three points off the lead in the Spanish league.
Raul's third goal of the season came from Roberto Carlos' low cross following a swift break down the left wing which also involved Jose Antonio Reyes.
Valencia's defeat deepened the slump in its league form. The 2002 and '04 champions are in eighth place after gaining just two points from a possible 15.
Madrid's victory at Mestalla stadium was its third straight and was achieved without the injured Ronaldo, David Beckham, Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez and Ivan Helguera.
The 29-time champions stayed in third place because Sevilla won 3-1 at Athletic Bilbao to keep hold of second place. Two goals by Luis Fabiano and one by Jose Luis Marti extended Sevilla's unbeaten run to six games, five wins and a draw. Also, Diego Milito scored his ninth goal of the season to help 10-man Zaragoza earn a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo.
Also, it was: Racing Santander 4, Recreativo Huelva 3; Getafe 0, Levante 0; Real Betis 1, Espanyol 1; Gimnastic Tarragona 2, Mallorca 3; and Osasuna 4, Deportivo La Coruna 1.
FC Barcelona leads the league with 29 points, while Sevilla has 28, Madrid has 26 and Zaragoza has 23.
Valencia, already lacking six players, including captain David Albelda, lost striker David Villa through injury in the 16th minute. His replacement, left winger Vicente Rodriguez, saw plenty of the ball as Valencia dominated the first half but couldn't create clear chances.
Madrid's own injury problems worsened after the first half. Defender Fabio Cannavaro, expected to be named European player of the year on Monday, didn't play after halftime while Reyes was carried off on a stretcher on the hour.
After Raul's goal, Valencia came close to an equaliser three times.
Miguel Angel Angulo fired into the side netting in the 54th minute, Vicente shot narrowly wide in the 68th minute and Angulo again blazed wide in the 89th minute goal.
Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano leaped to head home Frederic Kanoute's cross from the left and give the UEFA Cup champions a fourth-minute lead.
Worse came for Bilbao six minutes later when Marti's long-range, inswinging free kick caught goalkeeper Inaki Lafuente out of his goal and hit the post before entering the net.
Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz halved the deficit in the 68th minute after Igor Gabilondo's header had rebounded off the post, only for Luis Fabiano to score Sevilla's third in injury time. Bilbao has taken just two points from a possible 18, leaving it in 18th place and piling pressure on coach Felix Sarriugarte in his first season in charge.
Milito headed home in the seventh minute for Zaragoza, which had midfielder Alberto Zapater ejected in the 13th minute.
Celta striker Fernando Baiano took advantage of a mistake by Zaragoza goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez to level from close range in the 53rd minute.
Celta's former Argentina international Gustavo Lopez also was red-carded in the 78th minute.
The draw left 10th-place Celta with only one win in six games at Balaidos stadium this season.
Promoted Recreativo's run of three straight wins ended at Santander, whose towering striker Nikola Zigic scored a goal in each half.
Ezequiel Garay, with a penalty, and Gonzalo Colsa added goals for the hosts before halftime.
Recreativo scored through Portuguese defender Beto, Ikechuckwu Uche and Jesus Vazquez. Beto was sent off on the hour for a foul on Zigic.
Getafe coach Bernd Schuster, making his 400th Spanish league appearance as player or coach, saw his side play out a stalemate with promoted Levante.
Espanyol, which had scored six goals for the first time in 50 years on Thursday in the UEFA Cup, didn't score until injury time to draw with Betis. Walter Pandiani's goal leveled Brazilian striker Robert's 33rd-minute penalty.
Gimnastic's defeat against Mallorca left the promoted side winless in 11 matches.
Alejandro Campano gave Gimnastic a 40th-minute lead, with Mallorca replying through early second-half goals by Bosko Jankovic and Victor Casadesus.
New signing Ruben Castro equalized for Mallorca in the 73rd only for substitute Juan Arango to win Mallorca three points with an 88th-minute free kick.
Osasuna striker Roberto Soldado scored a spectacular goal in each half to help his team beat Deportivo and end a seven-game winless streak.
Valdo Lopes and Savo Milosevic scored Osasuna's other goals, while Juan Rodriguez netted Deportivo's consolation. On Saturday, Barcelona beat Villarreal 4-0, while Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with Real Sociedad.