Real Madrid kept the pressure up on Liga leaders Barcelona with a 2-0 defeat of Hércules that hauled them to within four points at the top.
Karim Benzema did the damage with both goals as José Mourinho’s men gave themselves a timely injection of confidence ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 decider at home against Olympique Lyonnais.
The French striker took his tally to six goals in his last three outings by converting Álvaro Arbeloa’s cutback on 24 minutes and then finding the far corner after an excellent run down the left 11 minutes into the second half.
Elsewhere, third-placed Valencia CF suffered a 4-0 defeat at Real Zaragoza, where Gabi buried a pair of penalties and the visitors lost Marius Stankevičius to a 64th-minute red card.
Sergio Agüero also registered a double to twice give Club Atlético de Madrid the lead at UD Almería, only for the hosts to salvage a 2-2 draw that lifted them to 18th, two points from safety.